The bail bond industry in Minnesota has been largely unregulated for most of its over 100 years of existence. There are many in the bail bond industry, including myself, who believe there should be more stringent requirements to obtain a license. Currently, to become a bail bond agent, one must obtain a license from the Department of Commerce and be approved by the State Court Administrator’s Office (SCAO). These steps require an applicant to complete general paperwork and pay applicable fees, followed by a background check. Obviously, individuals with extensive criminal pasts or felonies will not pass background checks, but there are no written or verbal tests or certifications at this time.
The Department of Commerce regulates many of the licenses in Minnesota, including the insurance, real estate, sales, and service industries. This group investigates complaints against licensees, follows up on consumer issues, as well as many other activities. In the bail industry, the Department also enforces a Consent Order that went into effect on January 1, 2016. The Consent Order tackles many concerns of the bail industry; also ensuring bail bond companies are on an even “playing field” in relation to pricing, record keeping, and how collateral is held. The Order also dictates that records are audited every year by the surety company associated with each bail bond company, and shares audit results with the Department of Commerce for review and enforcement.
Because bail bond agents work with the courts, the SCAO must also approve them. The rules of the SCAO are different, and in some ways more stringent, than those of the Department of Commerce. Bail agents must adhere to SCAO rules and are subject to their approval before renewal. Some of these rules include a dress code, solicitation, and documentation regulations. Recently, the rules of the SCAO have been updated to include most of the rules enforced by the Department of Commerce.
As an owner of a bail bond company in Minnesota, I lean toward not wanting too much regulation in this industry. However, under-regulation is not good either. Being under-regulated allows people into the business that are bad actors, and can give the entire industry a bad reputation. I know first-hand that most of the people in the bail bond business in Minnesota are upstanding professionals that are fair, honest, and law abiding. But, because of the ease of getting into this business, there are some problems. Unfortunately, these “bad actors,” are the people that make the news and are shared on social media to tarnish our reputation. Hopefully, the Department of Commerce and the SCAO will begin to more forcefully enforce the current regulations, and rid the industry of those that do not follow the rules.