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Austin Turns Blind Eye to Attorneys Charging for Jail Release

Austin, TX – I attended the 2nd Quarterly Meeting of the Professional Bondsmen of Texas at the Doubletree Hotel in Austin last week. The beautiful weather belied the continuing problem for the bail industry in Travis County; attorneys charging clients to obtain release on personal recognizance.
Local attorney Eve Schatelowitz Alcantar was a guest speaker and spoke about how attorneys flaunt the fact that neither the law nor the State Bar is taking notice of the practice of several local lawyers operating as defacto bail agents by arranging for defendants to be released on personal recognizance bonds and then charging them for “jail release”.
These attorneys are capitalizing on relationships formed with court clerks and judges receptive to requests to recommend or order a defendant’s release from jail on a PR bond. The fact the attorney has no financial liability or obligation to have the defendant in court or return the defendant to custody after a failure to appear seems to have no impact on court personnel willing to assist these attorneys.
The local bail bond industry has suffered significantly from this ongoing practice. Bail agents are forced to write bonds on defendants in the higher risk pool; i.e., out of county residents, convicted felons and defendants with prior failures to appear.  Higher risk means higher recovery costs and losses. Several bonding companies have closed their doors in the past three years due to overwhelming losses. They simply cannot compete with attorneys who can charge for getting a defendant released from jail with no obligation whatsoever.
Something has to be done about this self serving practice by some local attorneys. Neither the Texas Attorney General’s Office nor the FBI has been willing to step in and investigate. Until they do, Travis County residents will continue to live in an unsafe environment where felony violators are released from jail, unsupervised, pending trial while bail agents will have to continue enduring unfair trade practices.
Other Meeting News
The Texas Legislature is in session and the PBT Legislative Committee, Chaired by Scott Walstad, has been at the State Capital every day of open session. PBT does an excellent job advocating for pro-bail legislation and opposing any legislation that is bad for the bail industry and bad for Texas. Their efforts in 2008 quelled an attempt to introduce a deposit bond to Texas.
The 3rd Quarterly Meeting will be held in Fort Worth August 10-13 at the Hilton Fort Worth. This meeting begins Wednesday, August 10 with the 22nd Annual Steven G. Whitlock Memorial Golf Tournament benefiting Camp Esperanza. The charity golf outing will be held at Iron Horse Golf Course.  PBT SGW-Golf Chair, Marge Walstad collected $1500 in sponsorships during the meeting.
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