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Cameron County District Attorney Requests Attorney General Opinion on Attorney Surety Forfeiture
The Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz has requested the Texas Attorney General’s Office to render an opinion related to collection of judgements on forfeited attorney-surety bail bonds.
At the moment, it appears that Cameron County does not know how to collect on forfeited attorney-surety bail bonds.
The Cameron County District Attorney states:
I have been informed by the Cameron County Bail Bond Board that there are a number of attorney-surety bail bonds have been forfeited and said judgments are awaiting collection. Whereas the collection of judgments against the traditional sureties has a specified procedure, there is some ambiguity as how to proceed when dealing with attorney-sureties.RE: Request for Attorney Generals Opinion regarding collection of judgments on forfeited attorney-surety bail bond, RQ-0490-KP, From Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz
The Cameron County District Attorney Give a Background on Bail Bond Legistlature
In the Cameron County District Attorney’s requests for an opinion, he provides insight to what the statute currently states:
Collection of Forfeit Bond: Bond forfeitureisa criminalaction governed by the rules of civil procedure. See Blue v. State, 341 SW.2d 917, 919 (Tex. Crim. App. 1960). The forfeited bail amount is collected by execution as in civil actions. See Tex. Code Crim. Pro. Ann. art. 22.14 (West 2022).
Who Collects on Forfeit Bail Bonds: Title 2 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure deals with costs,fees, and fines in criminal cases. Chapter 103 covers payment, collection and recordkeeping. Article 103.008 indicates that district and county attorneys, clerks of district and county courts, sheriffs, constables, and justices of the peace may collect money under title 2.See Tex.Code Crim.Pro. Ann. art. 103.003
(West 2022), Article 103.0031 authorizes the commissioner’s court of a county to contract with a private attorney or public or private vendor for the collection of, among other things, forfeited bonds. Tex. Code Crim. Pro. Ann. art. 103.0031 (a)(l)(West 2022). Article 103.0031 (h) indicates that the commissioner’s court may not contract for the collection of forfeit commercial bail bonds. See Tex. Code Crim. Pro. Ann, art. 103.0031 (h) (West 2022). Article 103.004 directs the disposition of collected money including recognizances, bail bonds,fines, forfeitures,judgments,jury fees,and other obligations recovered in the name of the state under any provision of title two oft he Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. See Tex. Code Crim. Pro. Ann. art. 103.004 (a) (West 2022).
Bonds written in the due course of business by a company or agent licensed by the Cameron County Bail Bond Board are commercial bail bonds. Texas Occupations Code Chapter 1704 regulates bail bond sureties and defines bail bond business as the solicitation, negotiation, or execution of a bail bond by a bail bond surety. Tex. Occ. Code §1704.001(4)(West 2022). All sureties, except attorney sureties, are required to be licensed to execute a bail bond. Tex. Occ. Code §1704.303(a)(West 2022).
Bonds executed by licensed sureties that are forfeit are collected throughtheBailBond Board.
Personal recognizance and cash bonds are collected by the District and County Clerks’ collections departments.
Attorney sureties may pay monies owed on forfeit bonds to the District and County Clerks’ collections departments.
Consequently, if an attorney surety bond is not a species of commercial bail bond; the commissioner’s court may contract an outside firm to execute on the final judgments. However, if an attorney surety bond is a species of commercial bail bond, the commissioner’s court may not have the authority to contract an outside firm to execute on the final judgments.RE: Request for Attorney Generals Opinion regarding collection of judgments on forfeited attorney-surety bail bond, RQ-0490-KP, From Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz
The Texas Attorney General’s Office has Rendered an Opinion on the Topic of Attorney Surety
Texas Attorney General Opinion GA-0197, issued on June 3, 2004 states the following:
A bail bond board may determine that an attorney is ineligible to execute a bail bond under section 1704.163 if the attorney has engaged in conduct that would provide a basis for revoking or suspending the license of a licensed bondsman under sectionTexas Attorney General Opinion GA-0197, issued on June 3, 2004
1704.252 or section 1704.253. Because attorneys acting under the section 1704.163 exemption are not subject to chapter 1704’s license and security requirements, a board may not disqualify such an attorney for conduct that violates a chapter 1704 provision or board rule relating to license and security requirements.
The above ruling indicates an attorney that may default could be in violation of a bail bond rule, which could lead to revoking or suspending the ability to post sureties until the matter is remedied. The remedy could be paying the loss to the appropriate collections department.
However, the opinion does not specify the manner in which collections may occur, if any.
The Cameron County District Attorney Poses Questions to be Answered by the Texas Attorney General
Thus, the Cameron County District Attorney has posed five questions to consider and we will have to wait for an opinion from the Texas Attorney General’s Office to see how the county may collect on forfeited attorney bonds.
A Couple of Our Other Reads
You may be interested in reading about a request for an opinion on a separation of employment document used by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE)
Or you may like to read our article on the Texas Attorney General’s opinion on out of county magistrate bond setting.
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Categories: The Lone Star Review - State