5th June, 2019
Connecticut punches far above its weight when it comes to US history. We are, after all, the Constitution State. What you may not know, though, is that several of the most significant developments and court decisions related to Bail have their origins in Connecticut.
In 1803 the case of Nicolls v. Ingersoll was tried in Connecticut. Nicolls, who had been released on bail in Connecticut, brought an action against Ingersoll, who had been deputized by a Connecticut bail bondsman. Ingersoll had gone to Nicolls’ home in New York. After being denied entry into Nicolls' house, Ingersoll broke into the house with the assistance of two colleagues, awakened Nicolls and arrested him "with great roughness"and brought him before a judge in Connecticut. Nicolls sued the bondsman's agent for trespass, false imprisonment, and assault & battery.This became a test case for the bail bondsman's right, independent of government authority, to arrest a bailee, and whether or not this right is limited in any circumstances by individual rights or government authority.
Ultimately the jury found in favor of the bail bondsman, determining that the Bail Enforcement Agent did not use unreasonable force in arresting Nicolls. The court concluded that the power of taking and surrendering is not exercised under any judicial process, but results from the agreement between bondsman and bondee: “The bail piece is not process, nor anything in the nature of it, but is merely a record or memorial of the delivery of the principal to his bail, on security given”. Essentially this means that the jurisdiction of the court in no way controls the authority of the bail bond or the bondsman’ relationship to his client.
In addition to establishing that bail bondsmens’ power of arrest originates not from the state but from the private contractual relationship between bondsman and principal, Nicolls v. Ingersoll also established the right of bondsmen to appoint agents to make such arrests. These are commonly referred to as Bail Enforcement Agents, or BEA(link to connecticut bail academy). The Nicolls court stated that it saw "nothing on general principles, against allowing this power to be exercised by an agent or deputy, and no case is to be found where the right has been denied."
Furthermore, the Nicholls court also propounded the doctrine that bondsmen could pursue and arrest a fugitive principal anywhere within the United States. "It likewise refused to disturb the jury's finding that the apprehension was not accomplished by means of unreasonable force. Plaintiff Nicolls had been released on a $500 bond in Connecticut." Apparently, Connecticut police department courts and bail commissioners had a propensity for $500 bail back then as well (though in today's dollars that would equate to about $10,000).
The Nicolls court termed the rights described above "indispensable for the safety and security of bail." The findings of the court were upheld by the Supreme Court in 1810.
This is one of the most important decisions made in bail history. A Supreme Court decision gave what has become a one of the most quoted decisions in bail law in Taylor v. Taintor in 1872.
In 1866, sureties made an $8,000 cash bond (the equivalent of $130,000 today) for Edward McGuire in Connecticut. McGuire was charged with grand larceny. While awaiting trial in Connecticut, McGuire returned to his home in New York. Unbeknownst by the bondsmen & authorities in Connecticut, McGuire was wanted for another felony in Maine. Upon request from the Governor of Maine later in 1866, the Governor of New York extradited McGuire to Maine, where he was convicted of burglary in 1867 and imprisoned for fifteen years.
When McGuire failed to appear for trial in Connecticut in October 1866, the $8000 bond was forfeited. The Connecticut bondsmen sought relief from the forfeiture on grounds that he was not at fault in failing to secure McGuire's appearance; rather that his non-appearance was the result of his extradition to Maine—an intervening "act of law" under the Extradition Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Taylor Vs. Taintor is often used by bondsmen to justify their unique powers of apprehension, much like Nicolls vs. Ingersoll. An oft-quoted paragraph in the supreme court’s decision is this: "The bail have their principal on a string, and may pull the string whenever they please, and render him in their discharge." The Court further asserted that “no right of the state was involved" nor was any judicial process necessary for the bail to assert his "dominion" over the principal. The Taylor Court also affirmed the right of a bondsman to authorize other agents to arrest his principal for him, and reiterated the Nicolls doctrine that a bondsman may, if necessary, break and enter his principal's home to arrest him.
However - despite these obita dicta statements, Taylor vs. Tainto was actually ruled AGAINST the sureties by the judges of the supreme court, 4 to 3 (2 justices recused themselves). Although they upheld the fact that a defendant who fails to appear may be re-arrested by a bail bondsman or their agent, the court concluded that the sureties were at fault and that they were not protected by the Extradition Clause. Instead, the court reprimanded the sureties' "supineness and neglect" in failing to keep track of McGuire, and neglecting to inform New York authorities of the pending Connecticut case against him. Ultimately the defendant was not returned to Connecticut and served out his sentence in Maine.
Despite this apparent defeat, Taylor vs Taintor is still used to justify the powers of the bondsman and his agents over a defendant. The veracity of this notwithstanding, bail enforcement agents recover thousands of fugitives every year without costing taxpayers a penny. Of course, regulation of any such parties is necessary: as a civilised nation we cannot legally sanction anybody who takes the nation to break down doors. Connecticut General Statute 29-152f requires that any person that wants to engage in the business as a bail enforcement agent (bounty hunter) must first obtain a professional license from the Commissioner of Emergency Services and Public Protection. Those wishing to obtain a license follow this link: https://portal.ct.gov/DESPP/Division-of-State-Police/Special-Licensing-and-Firearms/Bail-Enforcement-Agents. If this is of interest to you, you can also receive the relevant training from our friends at www.connecticutbailacademy.com.