Whew! Another year is nearly behind us. Is it too much to ask that 2015 be an uneventful year? This past year was anything but calm. There were some good decisions and a few bad decisions rendered throughout the last twelve months that will impact the bail profession and public safety for years to come. Here are but a few.
The Supreme Courts in Ohio and Washington State ruled earlier this year their lower courts could no longer deny criminal defendants the right to secure their bail with a surety bond. Courts in these two states were setting bail with a ten percent cash option (ninety percent unsecured) to the exclusion of bail bonds. Criminal defendants in these two states now have the option on how they choose to meet their bail requirement.
You Walk Bail Bond Agency, Inc. of Michigan won a critical decision whereby the courts are now compelled to provide the surety notice of failure to appear within seven days as required by MCL 765.28. This case was appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court after a lower court denied the surety’s motion to set aside forfeiture on the basis the court waited three years to send the surety notice of a defendant’s failure to appear.
The Governor of New Jersey decided he wanted to do a full court press on the bail system at the expense of taxpayers by pushing through legislation that will put in place a statewide pretrial release program. This cost prohibitive taxpayer funded program will run into the tens of millions of dollars annually. Fortunately, there is still time to make necessary changes to the new law before it goes into effect January 2017.
Then there is California’s Prop. 47 recently put into law to the detriment of that state’s citizens. Prop. 47, which reduced a number of felony level crimes to misdemeanors has already had a negative impact on the crime rate in California. Increasing the level of tolerance of bad behavior is simply a bad idea. Expect to hear more complaints from law enforcement and public safety advocates in the coming months.
You may have read the USA Today series which ran throughout the year on the issue of the thousands of outstanding warrants across the country and the lack of enthusiasm among prosecutors to extradite fugitives. The final installment of this series Finally wanted: Police to chase thousands of fugitives from reporter Brad Heath was published December 30, 2014. In the article Brad Heath reports prosecutors from across the country have revisited their policy on issuing non-extraditable warrants and are now seeking the return of thousands of fugitives.
Bail agents have experienced first-hand what it is like to track down a fugitive over several states, place them in jail locally only to be told the prosecutor does not want to extradite the fugitive for whatever reason.
Justice was clearly not being served in these cases and law enforcement and bail agents were putting themselves at risk serving warrants on fugitives where prosecutors had no intention of extraditing the fugitive.
Brad Heath and USA Today should be commended for their efforts in waking up hundreds of prosecutors from around the nation from their apathetic stupor and reminding these justice pursuers of their inherent responsibilities, to prosecute criminal offenders.
Well, that’s a wrap for this year. Happy New Year! Check please!