Posted April 6, 2017 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock -
Austin, TX - The Committee on Criminal Justice held a hearing at the Texas State Capitol, on Tuesday, April 4. The hearing room was packed with bondsmen from around the state. They traveled to Austin to register their opposition to Senate Bill 1338. The measures underlying purpose is to put Texas bondsmen out of business. The tension in the room was palpable.
On behalf of ABC, I was among several representatives of the bail bond industry who registered to testify in opposition to SB 1338. Also providing testimony were expert bail attorneys Ken Good and Randy Adler and Houston based bondsmen, John Burns and Rodney Vannerson.
Sen. John Whitmire (D-15) is the Chair of the Criminal Justice Committee and the author of SB 1338. In his introduction of SB 1338, Sen. Whitmire pointed out the significant cost of holding in jail those defendants too poor to post bail. After hearing testimony about the exorbitant cost of holding every arrestee in custody until a risk assessment interview could be conducted, Sen. Whitmire quickly pivoted away from costs to public safety, 'We shouldn't be worried about costs when public safety is at issue!'.
SB 1338 calls for a risk assessment to be conducted on each defendant within 48 hours of arrest. 48 hours does not seem like a long wait until you factor in most people post bail within 24 hours of being arrested. Dallas County bonding companies post as many as 800 bonds a day. Factor in the high number of defendants who are released OR each day and that is a huge number of defendants requiring a risk assessments each and every day. Imagine the staff needed to process that many people on a daily basis, seven days a week. The impact on jail crowding would be immediate, long lasting and terribly expensive.
During the hearing Senator Whitmire made it very clear he was not at all concerned that his bill, if implemented, would put Texas bondsmen out of business or whether or not the cost of his proposed program would be a burden to taxpayers. Texas bondsmen post more than 400,000 bonds a year. Establishing a risk assessment based pre-trial agency system in 254 counties would costs Texas taxpayers as much as 2 billion dollars annually.
This hearing was very unusual in that standard decorum and protocol gave way to direct debate between Senator Whitmire and whoever was provide opposition testimony. It was was remarkable to watch. It was clear to me, Senator Whitmire believes the end will justify the means and he doesn't care how he gets there. He's been selected to waive the flag of criminal welfare in Texas and he is determined to succeed.
Every state in the country has a few first-time offenders in jail who cannot afford bail. And every state grants a judge the authority to release those individuals on their own recognizance should they so chose. We have state supreme court justices, state representatives, senators and governors who want to make this relatively minor issue into a a cause celebre. In doing so, these criminal welfare advocates are trying to convince law-abiding, tax-paying citizens they should fund the pre-trial supervision of those very people committing crimes against them.
Sen. Whitmire is the Chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee and it is a safe bet SB 1338 will be voted out of that committee. The Texas bondsmen community was well represented at this hearing but there needs to be five times as many at the next hearing of SB 1338. Stay tuned for more information about upcoming hearings and your opportunity to show support for your profession.
Add your own Comment!
Posted April 6,2017 at 04:06 PM by Sylvia Sanchez
I thought a public hearing was held for the public to have a voice. The chair person would ask, "any questions, none good" and move on without any pause whatsoever. Sen Whitmire was unprofessional, rude and acted like a school-room bully!
Posted April 6,2017 at 04:18 PM by Lee C Sexton
I think its interesting how legislators such as Sen. John Whitmire (D-15) who is the Chair of the Public Safety Committee and the author of SB 1338. It seems to be mostly Democrats who promote this ambition to the implement Risk Assessment scheme to promote their agenda as Public Safety. Its a hideous play on the poor and even worse on taxpayer's who only hear about how unfair it is to make criminals accountable to show up for court by posting a bond. Just look at how expensive and unsuccessful Risk Assessment has failed in NJ.
Posted April 26,2017 at 09:38 AM by Mitzi M
This is very bad for Texas courts & counties. How will the courts manage to keep up with people released on bonds, a valuable sewrvice that bondsmen perform now. The public unaware of how for the fee the bondsmen collect, they keep track of the defendent & make sure the person appears in court at the correct time & place. Without the bondsmen performing this function in the system, the entire criminal justice system in Texas will be put under such strain, that perps will be walking the streets with warrants without anyone trying to get them picked by up. VERY bad idea by a very uninformed Democrat lawmaker that hasn't thought this through AT ALL.