Archive for June, 2017

A 3.5 Billion Dollar Mistake

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

Once again the status of bail bonds as we’ve come to know them is in jeopardy in the state of California. As you’ll recall from a previous post here (Is Prop 47 a Flop?) statistics have shown that doing away with the need for bail bonds by virtue of releasing arrested persons on their own recognizance has backfired.

More people are back out in the communities committing repeat crimes sometimes even before their first court appearance on their original arrest. Now there is
legislation pending in the California legislature in the form of AB42 in the House of Representatives and SB10 in the Senate.

AB42 was recently defeated (narrowly) in the House, mostly due to strong opposition from the California Police Chief’s Assoc., Peace Officers Research Association of California ,and the California District Attorneys Association. The support of Crime Victims United, the California Judges Association as well as some lobbying from the bail industry helped also.

The Senate’s bill (SB10 is basically the same wording) is still pending. For those unaware of the bills’ intent, let me explain. AB42/SB10 are trying to
eliminate Bail and bail bonds as a means to set free arrested persons (pretrial release) claiming that they are discriminatory. The author of AB42 claims that the current bail system is broken and punishes people simply for being poor. He goes on to state that freedom from jail stays is linked directly to personal wealth, and therefore ignores public safety and flight risk. He believes that due to the high cost of bail, many people end up losing their jobs, homes, and even families while staying in jail awaiting judgement in court. We’ve talked about this in a previous post here (“Is it a crime to be poor?”). Just to refresh, here at Orange County Bail Bonds we offer very competitive (low) rates as well as financing plans for qualified clients, so that bail and bond costs should not be a determining factor in having a loved one released.

In an article for Law360, Quentin L. Kopp, a retired San Mateo Superior Court Judge who served 12 years in the California State Senate and 15 years on the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors, points out the financial devastation and bureaucratic nightmare this proposed legislation would create. Judge Kopp states that the estimated annual cost of this program would exceed $3.5B! That’s right –$3.5 BILLION for a service that is currently covered, tax-free, by the bail bond industry. Do we really want to replace a successful private industry, that supports thousands of people and their families, with another government bureaucracy? Who’s only goal is to release criminals from custody!

The author of AB42 also states that people locked up in jail are more likely than not to accept a plea deal, in essence pleading guilty to a crime they may not even have committed, solely to get out of jail.  According to the author, ”money bail reform by other states, combined with national and California-specific research on the issue, supports a pretrial system that is not regressive and further strengthens public safety.”

I would respond to that comment by pointing out New Jersey’s attempt at bail reform where the state passed legislation in an effort to relieve overcrowding in their jails. (hmm… is anyone else reminded of Prop 47 here in California?). Enacted in January of  this year, after just a month, state officials touted the new law as “effective”. But wait, in as little as two months later, citizens are in an uproar over the apparent “ catch and release” system that is in play. Several burglars and sex offenders have been let go under the new law, only to return to commit new crimes in the communities. People are rightfully complaining that their feeling of public safety is being jeopardized.

Countless interviews reveal heartbroken victims of often the same perpetrators who have been released while awaiting trial for a previous arrest.

As for the claim that it will save the government money, in New Jersey, courts are now open on Saturdays and Sundays, as well as prosecutor’s offices which have to be available 24/7.

The Orange County courthouses were closing every third Friday of each month to ostensibly save money in the face of a massive state budget deficit. It seems unlikely that they would reverse this in order to stay open on weekends to satisfy the requirement of an arrested person quickly being determined as eligible for an out on own recognizance release instead of bail on bond.

As far as the discrimination factor, who would be the person determining someone’s eligibility? The language of AB42 proposes the establishment of a pretrial services agency whose responsibility would include gathering information about recently arrested persons, conducting pretrial risk assessments, preparing recommendations to the courts tailored to each individual, and providing pretrial services and supervision to persons on pretrial release. The courts already have a well-established, successful pretrial release service program that has been in place since for over 30 years.
Saving the government money? Possibly, but at whose expense? Sounds like a taxpayer added burden, don’t you think? Bondsmen like Orange County Bail Bonds
provide these type of services to the public at no additional taxpayer (or government) cost.

Back to the discrimination factor. It would be up to a human being to make a judgement call on whether a defendant is “qualified” to be released without a cash
bail or bond. Of course there are (widely open to interpretation) guidelines, but “to err is to be human”, the potential for mistakes to be made is huge. Some of the
language of the bill regarding the pretrial services agency specifies “immediate” transmission of a pretrial services report that would include recommendations to the court. It begs the question: how “immediate” would a report be processed if someone is arrested and booked into the Orange County Jail at 2:00a.m.? With a bail bond, that person would not be waiting on a court decision many hours later, but would probably already be free to be able to see their family, go to a job, or contact legal representation.

Other language in the proposed bill states that when someone is released before being arraigned, either they or the prosecutor can file a motion requesting an amendment to the release order by alleging that circumstances have changed, and requesting additional or different conditions of release at the time of
arraignment. Wait, what? Can you see a defendant complaining, “I don’t like the color of my ankle monitor, it clashes with my outfit”. Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch, but the point being that the language could allow for abuse of the system by either party.

What to do to resolve the problem you may ask? Well, contrary to some legislators’ opinions, the bail bond system is not broken, and is not discriminatory. There is an organized resistance on social media (#NOSB10) basically asking the public to contact their legislators to request that they vote NO on this bill in the Senate which is basically the same as the House bill AB42 which was defeated.

Remember, Orange County Bail Bonds is here for you and your family 24/7 if the need should ever occur.