Florida Bail Agents Raid Miami Home Over $750 Bond, Sparking Criticism

May 26, 2019 Updated: May 26, 2019

A lawyer speaking on behalf of a Florida man whose house was stormed by bail enforcement agents over a $750 bond has called the incident a “state-sponsored home invasion.”

Faudlin Pierre, attorney for Donald Colas, was cited by The Miami Herald as saying his client intends to sue over the May 5 raid, which was supervised by the police.

“The guy didn’t appear for a traffic ticket, it’s not like the guy was a murderer,” Pierre told Miami Herald. “What gives these individuals, who are just basically hired contractors, to go into a third party’s home and destroy other people’s property?”

Bail enforcement agents—also known as bail bondsmen—were looking for Colas’s cousin Berlin Gabriel, a fugitive who skipped bail after being arrested for driving with a suspended license.

In Florida, as in many other states, suspects can get a bail bondsman to post a large fraction of their bond on their behalf, allowing the suspect to pay a relatively small portion of their bail and walk free. If the defendant skips bail and does not make a court appearance, the agent or Bail Bond Agency stands to lose money.

Colas’s house was the bail-skipping defendant’s last known address, according to court documents cited in the media outlet’s report.

Colas insisted, however, that his cousin hadn’t lived there in 20 years.

The agents reportedly cited a Supreme Court opinion from 1872 which gives bail enforcement agents the right to gain access by force, if necessary, to the homes of defendants who skip bail.

A video posted online by Miami Herald shows the agents using pry bars to gain entry to the house after Colas refused to let them in.

Colas is heard in the footage telling the agents that Gabriel is not at the home, while agents insist on searching the premises.

A police supervisor was reportedly present at the scene. Police were called to the property three times that night but allegedly left each time after determining no laws had been broken.

Gabriel’s family members reportedly paid off his debt to the bail agency a couple of days after the incident.

How Do Bail Bonds Work?

According to the Florida Department of Financial Services, bail bond agents use their own money or collateral to post bail for defendants and in exchange they are “promised money or other things of value for doing so.”

Crystal Ignatowski of Surety Solutions explains the process in a blog post: “For example, John is arrested. The court set John’s bail at $10,000. John wants to be released from jail but he does not have $10,000 in cash, so he seeks help from a Bail bondsman to post a Bail Bond for him.”

“The bondsman requires $1,000 to post a Bail Bond for John, thus releasing him from jail.”

Ignatowski writes that in the hypothetical example, if the defendant appears in court, the bondsman keeps the $1000 as a fee for profit.

If the defendant skips bail and the judicial process is interrupted, the bondsman must pay the court the outstanding amount—$9,000 in the hypothetical example—from their own pocket.

In Florida, bail bond agents are governed by the following laws: Chapter 648, Florida Statutes and Chapter 69B-221, Florida Administrative Code.

Crime in the United States

Violent crime in the United States has fallen sharply over the past 25 years, according to both the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS).

The rate of violent crimes fell by 49 percent between 1993 and 2017, reported the FBI’s UCR, which only reflects crimes reported to the police.

The violent crime rate dropped by 74 percent between 1993 and 2017, according to BJS’s CVS, which takes into account both crimes that have been reported to the police and those that have not.

“From 1993 to 2017, the rate of violent victimization declined 74 percent, from 79.8 to 20.6 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older,” the U.S. Department of Justice stated (pdf).

Both studies are based on data up to and including 2017, the most recent year for which complete figures are available.

The FBI recently released preliminary data for 2018. According to the Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report, from January to June 2018, violent crime rates in the United States dropped by 4.3 percent compared to the same six-month period in 2017.

While the overall rate of violent crime has seen a steady downward drop since its peak in the 1990s, there have been several upticks that bucked the trend.

Between 2014 and 2016, the murder rate increased by more than 20 percent, to 5.4 per 100,000 residents, from 4.4, according to an analysis of FBI data. The last two-year period in which the rate soared so quickly was between 1966 and 1968.

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