State officials to audit bail bonds companies for compliance

bail bonds
"What you need" by Renee is licensed under CC BY 2.0
bail bonds
A bail bonds company in downtown Las Vegas. (“What you need” by Renee is licensed under CC BY 2.0)

A disproportionate number of the consumer complaints filed with the Nevada Division of Insurance are related to the bail industry. In response, state officials have launched a new initiative — called the Bail Compliance Project — to try and get ahead of the problems plaguing these companies.

Beginning this month, state officials will visit every bail company and perform a courtesy audit to try and identify compliance issues. Rather than citing companies immediately, the state will instead provide a report that highlights the potential problems and provides a path for getting back in line with state statutes.

Typically, officials would only audit or review a company as part of an investigation launched after a formal complaint was filed. Common violations include conducting unlicensed activity, misrepresenting or misusing authority, and using contracts that violate state law. The non-profit, collaborative news site MuckRock has compiled some of the most egregious stories of alleged harassment and fraudulent practices.

“Rather than address (complaints) one at a time, this seemed like a good opportunity to do across-the-board outreach to let everyone how we interpret the law and what we expect,” says David Cassetty, deputy commissioner. “This is meant to be cooperative. We’re trying to work with them.”

The Division of Insurance kicked off the project by hosting three informational sessions — two in Las Vegas on July 19 and one in Reno the following day. Cassetty says some compliance issues arise from differences in interpretation. For example, the statutes granting enforcement powers given to different types of agents aren’t as explicit in their wording as they could be.

“It may be that either the courts have to interpret them eventually,” says Cassetty, “or we reach a working arrangement so these can be interpreted consistently.”

He hopes that beginning a dialogue with bail agents and companies outside of the official complaint process will help everyone involved — especially consumers.

Approximately 200 business entities have been identified by the state for an audit.

State officials are starting with companies in the northern part of the state and expect to complete those by late fall. Audits in Clark County, where the majority of bail agents and companies are located, are expected to carry over into spring 2019.

Cassetty says the state plans to follow up with all of the bail companies “after a few months” to see if the identified problem areas have been addressed. If they haven’t, then specific violations may be identified for prosecution and handled accordingly.

April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. She has been a beat writer at Las Vegas Sun, a staff writer at LEO Weekly, web editor of Las Vegas Weekly and a blogger documenting North American bike share systems’ efforts to increase ridership in underserved communities. An occasional adjunct journalism professor, April steadfastly rejects the notion that journalism is a worthless major. Amid the Great Recession, she earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. She later earned an M.A. in media studies and a graduate certificate in media management from The New School for Public Engagement. April currently serves on the board of the Society of Professional Journalists Las Vegas pro chapter. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, two children and three mutts.

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