"If a bail bondsman isn't getting the full 10 percent, that's his business and it's how he eats," said Rogers, 23, who lives in Southeast Baltimore. "If he decides to take less money, who is he hurting? I thought people were innocent until proven guilty."
The authority for bondsmen to free people, such as Rogers, on credit comes from a 1997 ruling by the Maryland Court of Appeals. According to the insurance administration, the decision left the state with rules that are difficult to enforce.
Simply not collecting the full 10 percent fee isn't enough to violate the law. The state has to prove that a bondsman hasn't tried to collect it, which is difficult, said Todd Cioni, associate insurance commissioner for compliance and enforcement.
Cioni said a bail bondsman could cut a deal for a 5 percent fee and then warn the defendant that he would receive a few meaningless letters demanding the remaining 5 percent, which the defendant could ignore. The letters are sent only to deceive regulators, Cioni said.
"There's no strict criteria; it's not like a Visa card," he said. "Some of these folks don't promise to pay `X' amount on the 15th of every month. And when we ask, `When does the defendant have to pay?' They say, `When the defendant has the money.'"
Cioni's staff has the power to walk into any bail bonds office and order bondsmen to open their files. But Cioni has only one employee assigned to regulate the industry across the state.