Coast to Coast

A few weeks back I reported to you about an Ohio Supreme Court decision that told the Ohio lower courts they cannot prohibit a criminal defendant from purchasing a bail bond to secure their release.  The courts could not limit the bond options to 10% cash only.

On the west coast another high court took issue with the lower courts limiting the release options for offenders.   The Washington State Supreme Court issued a ruling July 31, saying the lower courts could not prohibit use of bail bonds.   Washington courts can no longer deny a defendant the right to use a third party guarantor, a sufficient solvent surety, to post bail use a cash alternative.

Interestingly, deposit bail only surfaced in Washington State a few years ago.  I specifically recall attending a Washington State Bail Agents Association meeting where I spoke about how deposit bail can spread from county to county like kudzu once other courts start hearing about the revenue that can be generated by the reduced cash option. 

There is nothing wrong with generating revenue, but the courts were taking just ten percent of the amount due people! That’s a fire sale and the ones getting burned are the citizens of that state as they see criminal offenders released from jail unsupervised by the hundreds and thousands.

While the Ohio and Washington decisions are favorable to criminal defendants, taxpayers and the bail profession, New Jersey recently took a step in the opposite direction.   With the passing of S946 the New Jersey Legislature approved a statewide pretrial release program with a rollout date of January 2017.   This program is designed to release the majority of criminal defendants from jail pending trial with no bond requirement.   These defendants would then be supervised by hundreds of new state employees costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars each year.

The American Bail Coalition has scheduled a meeting for August 19 at the Wyndham Garden Hotel in Trenton, New Jersey.  Bail agents from around that state have been invited to attend and learn more about what S946 means for their future and what legislative options are available to minimize the burden on the taxpayers and public safety this new bureaucracy is sure to bring.

The American Bail Coalition in cooperation with New Jersey bail agents had done a remarkable job educating state legislators and various civic groups on the positive impact the bail profession has on the criminal justice system and the unintended consequences of a statewide, public-funded, pretrial release program.

I’ll be present for this meeting in Trenton to participate in efforts to preserve the bail profession in The Garden State.  The only true way to preserve the bail profession and affect positive change is to combine our resources, work together and develop solutions.  Hope to see you there.