Take the Money or Run: The Risky Business of Acting as Both Your Client's Lawyer and Bail Bondsman
St. Mary's Law Journal
The American Bar Association strongly discourages lawyers from being bondsmen due to the conflicts that can arise when a criminal defense attorney acts as their client's bail bondsman. These same ethical dilemmas can also be encountered in posting a bond for a client in civil matters such as probate, family law, and appeals. In Texas, lawyers are exempt from the requirements of licensure as a bondsmen, including the requirement to maintain a particular level of security to underwrite the bonds. Nonetheless, lawyers are still required to conform to the requirements regulating the practice of bondsmen.
It is not enough for attorneys to rely on Texas statutes and ethics opinions to resolve the quandary of becoming a bondsman. The opinions do little to provide a proper analysis of the ethical duties an attorney owes the client. Lawyers should look to other states’ opinions and any other available resources. Lawyers must maintain the highest professional integrity to do right by their clients and ensure an unquestionable dedication to both the letter and spirit of the law. Lawyers should consider the types of redress the client may seek which include: (1) complaining to county Bail Bond Board; (2) complaining to the Texas State Bar; (3) contesting the surrender of the bond; and (4) filing a breach of fiduciary duty claim.
Dayla S. Pepi, Take the Money or Run: The Risky Business of Acting as Both Your Client's Lawyer and Bail Bondsman, 37 St. Mary’s L.J. 933 (2005).