In 1976, Kentucky became the first of the four U.S, states that ban commercial bail bonds and bounty hunting. The law was passed because of the belief that commercial bail bond systems discriminate against the poor by punishes most those who are least able to pay.
Kentucky Statute 431.510
This 1976 statute totally abolished bail bonding for profit. Individuals interested in pursuing careers as bail bond agents or bounty hunters cannot do so in the state of Kentucky. Licensed bounty hunters who are tracking fugitives from another state cannot arrest them in Kentucky without taking a chance they’ll be arrested themselves. A bounty hunter or bondsman from another state CAN go before a Kentucky judge to request a fugitive’s arrest warrant. If the judge is convinced that an arrest is justified, a warrant will be issued; however, the arrest can only be carried out by a Kentucky peace officer, not by the out-of-state bounty hunter or bondsman. The fugitive is then delivered to the court that issued the bail or remanded into the bounty hunter’s custody for transportation to the original jail.
Alternative to a Commercial Bail Bonds System in Kentucky
In place of a for-profit bail system, the Kentucky General Assembly created the Pretrial Services Agency in 1976 as a division of the Administrative Office of the Courts. The Pretrial Services Agency operates under the assumption that persons accused of a crime are innocent until proven guilty and deserve a reasonable opportunity to not be kept in jail until tried depending on the risk to public safety and the likelihood that the accused will appear in court as scheduled.
Pretrial officers interview every defendant within 12 hours of the arrest. These officers serve all 120 Kentucky counties and are available for service 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Since the division was established, pretrial officers have interviewed over 2.7 million defendants. In addition to a detailed personal interview, the officers conduct a criminal background check and a risk assessment before making a pre-trial release recommendation to the court. The judge then elects one of these options:
- Release the defendant on his/her own recognizance
- Set a suitable bail amount
- Keep the accused in custody
If a bail is set, the defendant can be released by paying the court 10 percent of the bail amount in cash or by property bond. Unlike bail-for-profit systems, the bail amount is returned to the accused when he/she makes good on the promise to appear in court as scheduled.
Pretrial officers verify the defendant’s appearance and monitor any conditions the judge may place on the release.