How Recent Texas Bail Bond Reform Began
Bail is the amount of money that a court requires someone to pay in order to be released from jail between the time of arrest and the time of the accused criminal's day in court.
Currently we offer bail bonds in both Fort Bend County and Washington County. We've been bail bondsmen in Brenham TX and Richmond TX for many years, and it has been interesting to watch the changes in our bail bonds industry. These changes could prove detrimental to bail bond businesses or, like many things, they could balance out and a solution could arise that benefits our society, our economy, our businesses, and our court system, and the accused criminals.
Before we get into the synopsis history of the bail bond reform in Texas, it's important to establish a few key points.
- First, we all agree that going to jail is expensive. Bail, court costs, cost to reputations, jobs, family and more can take its toll.
- Second, the current bail system is executed with a broad amount of personal preference and in an arbitrary manner. Judges give a wide variance of bond amounts for similar crimes.
- Third, bail amounts are many times not fitting to crimes committed.
- Fourth, a bail amount can vary drastically based on a judge's preference of the accused individual.
- Fifth, accused criminals' past records are not always taken into account, when setting bail amounts.
- Sixth, keeping people cost the taxpayers money.
Ok, now that we set the foundation, here is the bulleted history of how bail bond reform developed recently in Texas. You can read more detail about the history of Texas Bail Bond reform here.
- Texas Bail Bond reform started when a woman was arrested for driving without a license. Her bail amount $2,500, and she couldn't afford it, so she sued.
- A report by the Texas Judicial Council showed that keeping people detained before trial costs Texas local governments $905 million per year.
- If you are arrested in Dallas for shoplifting (even if it's only $105), you could face a $150,000 bail amount (FYI-that means you would have to come up with $15,000 to pay a bail bondsman to get out of jail).
- Then the Harris County Sheriff came forward and said the Bail System wasn't a rational system.
- In March 2017, lawmakers tried to pass a bail bond reform bill but failed. (They did, however, find success with reforming the bail system for people arrested for unpaid fines and fees - also known as debtors prisons)
- A Federal Judge in Houston ruled that our current bail system didn't take individual situations into account and was therefore unfair to poor people.
- The U.S. Supreme Court denied halting a court order in Harris County that required the release of misdemeanor defendants who couldn't afford to pay for their bonds. (this essentially removes the motivation for people to show up to their court date).
- Harris County argued that releasing misdemeanor offenders would put the public at risk.
- Now the 5th circuit of appeals is supposed to weigh in on the lower court's decision.
- As part of Texas judges' continuing education, many are being taught by law firms who are encouraging similar rulings in other Texas counties to avoid possible legal problems for county judiciaries.
- This has resulted in an increase in PR Bonds, where more people who are arrested for crimes are being given very low bail bond amounts and or arrested then released on their own personal recognizance.
What lawmakers and our courts seem to be failing to recognize, is the solution they are providing isn't answering the right problem. The problem isn't that people can't pay for bail. The purpose of a bail is to create an accountability for someone to return to court. If you design a bail system where there is no consequence, then human nature won't treat the court date seriously. It shouldn't be cheap to get out of jail. It should take some work to want to get out. In our history as bail bondsmen, we've seen people from all financial backgrounds, and almost without fail, if someone wants their loved one out of jail, they find some way of coming up with the cash or collateral needed to post bond.
What our court system needs is a statewide mandated bail fee schedule that is first and foremost consistently applied and takes two things into account - the crime and the defendant's previous criminal record. If those two considerations were the driving force behind determining bail bond amounts and they were consistently applied, then bail bond reform would already have happened.
We believe in treating people with honesty, integrity and courtesy. If you are looking for bail bonds in Fort Bend County (Bail Bonds office Located in Richmond TX) or Washington County (Bail Bonds office located in Brenham TX), we'd love to help.
Posted on Mon, September 24, 2018
by Jeremiah Mohr