If the legislative authority would like to abolish cash bail bonds, to begin with but not limited to the following fees such as over priced attorney fees, court costs, probation user fees, alcohol and drug mandatory countermeasure fees, community service fees, public defender reimbursement fees, court interpreter reimbursement fees, alcohol and drug counseling fees, jail inmate fees, GPS monitoring fees, domestic violence fees, anger management programming fees and the other nine or 10 fees, mandated costs and assessments to be paid as a result of a conviction, as a bondsman I would be more than happy to support the legislation and release all defendants from jail on their “promise to appear.” State Legislatures have merely made judges bill collectors, much to our dismay. It is especially crucial to collect costs and fees when agencies and their employees are dependent upon judges to maintain high collection levels for their very existence. Let’s also not forget about the enforcers that dedicate their existence to this continuing effort to collect money for the state in the color of justice.
Despite the affront to constitutional notions, in reality a cash bond simply helps the courts be “collector-in-charge” do their job and maintain those criminal justice agencies dependent upon user-based funding, considering the state fails to give, if any at all, much economic support. It may come as a surprise to the public that many of those arrested are not trustworthy to appear in court in the future, much as we would like to believe. And to the dismay of your constitutional notions, many are arrested multiple times while charges are pending. Should we release them on a “promise to appear?” If those released without posting financial security later plead guilty and do not pay the multitude of costs imposed by the Legislature, their probation is revoked. Then they can be jailed, if shown they have the ability to pay and failed. Would the State, Country, or public at large like their jails to be overcrowded with probation violators for non payment of costs?
Do you really believe Virginia, Maryland or West Virginia defendants crossing through the Washington Metro Area and arrested for a crime, then released on a “promise to appear,” will make the tedious trip to any of the courts to attend to their legal matter? Who extradite them if they fail to appear? The court’s failure-to-appear statistics will be off the chart if cash bonds are legislatively outlawed. The courts currently enjoy an amazingly good appearance rate with our current system of cash bonds. In most Counties, each court reviews a list of those arrested weekly to determine who has not bonded and why. They assess each arrested person for possible release with conditions. Public defenders are immediately appointed to make appropriate arguments for release or to lower an existing bond or release time-served.
In one County jail in my area population during the Christmas holiday was a mere 375. Without initiating a cash bail program, it could have been as high as more than 550. If the public and states want to help the courts do thier job better and smarter, they can seek funding for better pretrial community correction programs, which have been shown to work. But without cash bonds, even these programs will fail for lack of funding because ultimately nothing exists for free. There may be some offenses such as minor drinking, driving suspended or simple possession that call for release pending trial without bond. But picking and choosing certain crimes to bond or release is a slippery slope of prioritizing one crime over another. Every year, judges in Indiana have come to look with fearful dread at the myriad bills proposed in the Legislature that make the courts jobs tougher. It appears 2016 will be no different. This call to abolish cash bail bonds seems to be the 2016 version of the annual legislative mistake.
Written by Darrell Conley