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Bail bonds 'bill of rights' considered to protect NYC consumers

The bills mulled by City Council would set up a complaint process with potential fines imposed on offenders.

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A bail bonds "bill of rights" is being considered by the New York City Council. Photo Credit: Getty Images / John Moore

New York City would regulate bail bonds under legislation being considered before the City Council.

One bill, Introduction 510-A, would require bail bondsmen to “conspicuously” post the maximum premiums under state law.

The maximum premium is 10 percent for bonds of $3,000 or less; the allowable percentage goes down as the bond amount goes up. The bill would also set up a city-run complaint process, refer violators to the police and impose fines.

The other bill, Introduction 724, would mandate posting a so-called bill of rights outlining how the bonds process works, how to file a complaint and provide a glossary of industry terms, such as collateral and premiums.

Casey Adams, director of city legislative affairs for the Department of Consumer Affairs, testified in favor of the bills, but asked for minor changes.

Catherine Gonzalez, an attorney with Brooklyn Defender Services, backs the bills to regulate bail, but said the city should work toward abolishing what she described as a “predatory and unnecessary industry.”

New Jersey eliminated cash bail last year, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has said he wants to do the same.

Steve Zalewski, a bail bondsman who has offices in the city and Long Island, said he supports the portions of the bill that require disclosures, but opposes further regulation by the city.

“Think of every industry that deals with the public,” Zalewski said. “You have one complaint and then we eradicate the industry?”

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