County finalizing rules for bail bond board; panel set to meet Thursday

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

Dec 19, 2007 - Hopkins County is joining the ranks of a number of other areas in establishing a board to monitor, set standards for and license bail bondsmen to do business in Hopkins County.

The board includes the sheriff, district judge, county judge, county court-at-law judge, district attorney, a justice of the peace, district clerk, county clerk and county treasurer, as well as one person each representing local bail bond businesses and attorneys.. County Judge Cletis Millsap will be serving as bail bond board chairman. Those serving on the board will not be paid for their service.

Letters were recently sent  to members of Hopkins County Bar Association as well as local bondsmen notifying them that both groups must elect representatives to the board by April 1, 2008.

The board will meet at 11 a.m. Thursday in Meeting Room 1 at the courthouse.

Bonding rules and guidelines are being constructed according to provisions in Chapter 1704 of Texas Occupations Code. The new rules will go into effect on June 1, and the board is in the process of completing the membership requirements for those who must serve on the board.

The law requires that a bondsman in “good standing” shall serve on the baord. “Good standing” means that the bondsman must send in an application, along with a nonrefundable $500 filing fee, to the county, and put up $50,000 as collateral. Property can be used as collatera. provided the applicant has paid all debts to the county. To verify all debt is paid, the applicant will be responsible for contacting the county and district clerk’s offices to see how much is owed, the letter states.

The board will consider, approve and license bondsmen, as well as handle renewals and denials of licenses.

Bondsmen will be required to be licensed by Hopkins County Bail Bond Board in order to operate as a within Hopkins County. The idea is to ensure quality bondsmen in the county, for their potential clients’ benefit as well as the county’s.

Applicants must be a legal U.S. and Texas resident, at least 18 years old, and possess the financial resources required. They must also provide documentation that in the two years before the license application was filed  they had been continuously employed at least 30 hours a week by a person licensed for at lest one year, and have performed duties that encompass all phases of the bonding business; and completed at least 8 hours of continuing legal education in criminal law courses or bail bond law courses offered by an accredited institution and approved by the State Bar of Texas. A corporation must be chartered or admitted to do business in the state and qualified to write fidelity, guaranty and surety bonds.

Anyone who has been convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor involving “moral turpitude” after Aug. 27, 1973, is ineligible to apply for a license.

The board can refuse a license for unpaid final judgments, and can consider the applicant’s prior conduct as a bondsman and prior violations when deciding to issue a license.

It is also expected the boad, formed in October, will reduce costs for transport of inmates from facilities outside Hopkins County, as well as ensure the county is paid for the amount owed them. It will also hold bondsmen more accountable for the inmates they bond out of jail.

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