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Posted September 15, 2014 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock Executive Vice President - 3 Comments

It’s been a tough few weeks for the National Football League and Commissioner Roger Goodell.  The video tapes of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancée in a casino elevator have brought national awareness to the crime of domestic violence. Until now the NFL’s policy of a soft handed disciplinarian approach has sufficiently mollified the fans, those days are gone.  The videos changed everything as seeing something is different than hearing about it.  It’s vivid, it’s personal and it’s real.

According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics report Nonfatal Domestic Violence, 2003-2012 about one in five violent crimes with a victim was a case of domestic violence.   Knowing this, why then are so many judges and prosecutors routinely releasing offenders of domestic violence on low bonds or no bonds?  If a video of the assault was available in these cases, would these decision makers elevate the requirements to secured appearance?

Even though the “O.J. Simpson Rule” (if the police are called to a location of a domestic dispute someone will be arrested) is a component of most police policies regarding domestic violence, an appropriate bail schedule is not.  The bail required to secure the release of someone charged with domestic violence should equal the offense and should be secured by nothing short of full cash or a surety backed bail bond.

Retail bail agents see it every day; people being arrested for domestic violence and other equally serious offenses.  There are judges, without a challenge by prosecutors, releasing these offenders from jail on low bail, OR (a promise to appear) or discounted cash bail (cash equal to 10% of the bail deposited with the court).

Why are prosecutors not demanding fully secured bail to guarantee the appearance of those criminal offenders with a victim?  Is it not their duty as an advocate for victims?  The courts are either releasing these offenders with a promise to appear for expediency or on discounted cash bonds because they are more concerned about generating revenue from cash bail than seeing justice done.

The court’s apathy is spreading across the country.  In Indiana where I’m based, we have courts in Evansville, Columbus, South Bend and Gary where nearly every criminal offender is required to accept a 90% discounted cash bond whether there is a victim or not.  A 25 to 30 percent failure to appear rate among defendants released on unsecured bonds is common place and an acceptable rate in those jurisdictions.  I’m told South Bend courts have a practice of allowing failure to appear warrants to expire after six months in order to hide from the public the thousands of outstanding warrants in St. Joseph County.

Would a video tape depicting the indifference and disregard many judges and prosecutors have towards public safety and victims’ rights be enough for the public to demand changes?  I’m not so sure, let’s roll the tape and find out.

Comments

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Posted September 15,2014 at 09:50 PM by Jon Handler

I say roll with it..... Majority of the public have no idea what we do or what bail even is. I find myself educating criminal defense attorneys and even judges on the purpose of bail and how it works. I am always willing to roll the dice a little bit to make a point. Mike let me know if you need any help I appreciate thinking outside of the box a little!

Posted September 17,2014 at 12:59 PM by Mike Whitlock

Update - I spoke with local Indianapolis bail agent who informed me Marion County (Indianapolis) has been setting bonds on domestic violence. In fact,they set a $50,000 bond on a first time offender just this morning. Just wanted to correct the record. Mike

Posted September 18,2014 at 09:35 PM by Les Alligood

We in the Bail business are eager to complain and gripe about the way most Courts are setting and accepting Bonds but we are to shy to name the people involved in this ill advised formula. Why do we not name Surety Bail's enemy. It is the JUDGES who set the Bonding cases. Lets pull our heads out of the sand and name names and present facts to the public. What can the Judges do at this point? They have already taken our income from us so what is left? A big fat zero. When you identify an enemy you go after them. We have informed, pleaded, and begged. When you continue to do the same thing nothing changes.



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