SAN FRANCISCO—Today, the Prosecutors Alliance of California announced the filing of an amicus brief in the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, in support of the class action lawsuit brought by Kiara Ferrari Caldwell against Bad Boys Bail Bond Corporation.
“Unfortunately, the alleged tactics of Bad Boy Bail Bonds is consistent with the behavior of an industry that preys on the indigent at their most desperate moments,” said Cristine DeBerry, Founder and Executive Director of the Prosecutors Alliance. “The Alliance and its members are standing up to protect consumers from predatory lenders that trap our most vulnerable in a cycle that undermines their security and the safety of our community.”
“For too long, the bail bond industry has operated with impunity while it has exploited desperate and vulnerable people, who are disproportionately people of color, during some of the most stressful moments in their lives. Enforcing consumer protection laws against this kind of unlawful behavior protects vulnerable community members and enhances public safety,” said San Francisco District Attorney Boudin. “Every dollar wrongfully diverted to businesses like Bad Boys is a dollar less for education, housing, and health care, all of which have been shown to reduce interactions with the criminal justice system. This case reinforces our office’s policy never to seek money bail to ensure that no one is incarcerated—or taken advantage of—simply for their poverty.”
According to court records, the lawsuit stems from Ms. Caldwell’s interaction with Bad Boy Bail Bonds on June 21, 2018, when she received a call from the company asking her to come to their office in Oakland to post bail for her friend. Ms. Caldwell’s friend had been arrested for shoplifting.
During a rushed, fifteen-minute meeting with Bad Boys, Ms. Caldwell cosigned what she believed to be an agreement for a one-time $500 payment for her friend. Instead, she had unknowingly agreed to be responsible for paying the remainder of the bail premium, amounting to an additional $4,500 in installments. Ms. Caldwell, who could hardly afford to retrieve the $500 from the nearby ATM, would not have signed the contract had she been notified of the implications as required under California law.
In July 2018, Bad Boys is alleged to have begun a three-month campaign of harassing phone calls to Ms. Caldwell, her family members, and her employer. The company then sued her. In response, Ms. Caldwell filed a class action cross-complaint, alleging that Bad Boys’ bail premium financing agreements are unlawful because Bad Boys does not provide notice to cosigners as required for all consumer credit contracts pursuant to California Civil Code section 1799.91.
On April 9, 2021 Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman granted Ms. Caldwell’s request for a preliminary injunction, ordering Bad Boys to stop filing lawsuits against cosigners who did not receive the notice and cease all attempts to collect money from them. At stake are approximately 18,000 contracts and $38 million of bail premium debt incurred across California. Bad Boys appealed Judge Seligman’s order. Today the Prosecutors Alliance, joined by Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, filed an amicus brief in support of Ms. Caldwell and her proposed class.
As noted in the Prosecutors Alliance amicus brief, consumer protection laws safeguard vulnerable cosigners who are often desperate to bail their close friends or loved ones out of jail. Unnoticed bail premium financing agreements threaten to entrap those already living in poverty in long-lasting cycles of debt. These impacts fall disproportionately on people of color, like Ms. Caldwell.
The bail bonds companies profit off of the exorbitantly high fees they charge to largely low-income individuals in their most desperate moments. At the same time, wealthier individuals typically receive more favorable loans. In many instances, wealthier people can easily pay the bail set by the court without the assistance of a bonds company and can receive a full refund at the conclusion of a case. This practice perpetuates inequality throughout the criminal legal system.
The amicus brief was written by Eduardo E. Santacana and Joshua D. Anderson, of Willkie Farr and Gallagher LLP, who represented the Prosecutors Alliance, a project of Tides Advocacy, pro bono, as well as San Francisco Assistant District Attorney Alex Feigen Fasteau.