OUr bondsman are pitching a fit b/c the judges are declaring CSRP bonds insufficient while they are forfeiting bondsmen's bonds. Can someone help with the statutory authority for CSRP (if it exists)?
Sounds like fancy initials for a personal bond or pretrial release. Also, sounds like a problem that hasn't changed in 9 years.
Wednesday, July 15, 1998
Taylor County makes changes in release program
By ANTHONY WILSON / Abilene Reporter-News
Taylor County has tweaked its no-bond release program to screen jailed defendants more closely and reduce the numbers freed, but Abilene bail bondsmen remain peeved over the effort.
County commissioners on Tuesday continued to back the expanded court-supervised release program [CSRP?], wanting to give the project three to six months to test whether it whittles costs for court-appointed attorneys.
Though convinced the program won't work, bondsmen will be forced to wait as well.
"I know it won't succeed and I can say that with total confidence," said Billy Olson, owner of Billy Olson Bail Bonds.
"It's disappointing. We've presented them with enough information to warrant a better decision. Government taking over private business won't work."
Commissioners revised the program last month so people arrested for misdemeanor crimes can agree to participate in court-supervised release, freeing them immediately. In return, defendants pay a personal bond of $20 or 3 percent of a preset bail amount, whichever is greater.
Participants are required to report to probation officers, submit to drug tests, avoid other criminal activity and hire an attorney.
Previously, those wanting to "get out of jail free" -- as some call it -- had to wait 24 hours before signing the agreement. Many instead opted to call one of Abilene's 10 bonding companies to secure their immediate release.
Knowing offenders would be eager to leave the county's lock-up at minimal cost, commissioners figured they could substantially reduce court-appointed attorney fees.
But the effort has reportedly yielded questionable results.
Olson told commissioners supervision has been minimal, failures to appear in court have jumped in the past month, and local law enforcement -- boasting too many demands and too little manpower -- haven't been chasing absconders.
Buddy Meyer, owner of Speedy Bail Bonds, further charged Taylor County jailers and law officers were violating a state law by "soliciting" the CSRP.
County officials said jail employees simply explain the bonding options to defendants. Meyer alleged they are violating a statute that prohibits public officials from recommending a particular bondsman -- the county in this case.
"All we want to do is stick to the old program we had," he said. "It wasn't broke. Why fix it? We're trying to get fancy."
Acknowledging the 100 participants in the expanded program's first month strained probation staffers, the county is forcing jailed suspects to wait until 5 a.m. or 3:30 p.m. when probation officers arrive to screen defendants more thoroughly.
The wait, coupled with officers' blunt assessment of the program's requirements, has reduced the caseload to a manageable 10 per week, county officials reported.
Commissioner Stan Egger believes the efforts will slash attorney fees and provide closer supervision that could reduce recidivism.
"I don't know for sure," he confessed. "I hope we can make a difference in a few lives. I may be dreaming."
County Judge Lee Hamilton added, "I don't know what will happen, but I think we need to give it time to see if we get the desired results."
Olson previously argued only 10 percent of the county's court-appointed attorney fees are spent on freed defendants. He echoed his claim Tuesday that bail bondsmen are able to meet most defendants' needs and that the new CSRP is unnecessarily slicing into private enterprise.
"It's knocked everybody in the head," Olson said, noting 13 current or ex-clients were released through CSRP in one recent week.
Bondsman Don "the Lawman" Slatton added: "CSRP is taking the good bonds. I don't care what kind of restrictions you put on a person, if you're going to offer a free bond they'll take it. I can't compete with that."
Don Dudley was the lone commissioner to vote against continuing the revised program. He forecasted the probation department will eventually want more resources to meet the increased demands.
"I've seen it happen for 16 years," Dudley said. "If it doesn't happen in this case it will be a first."
I know bondsmen don't like it, and we all know why, but as long as there are sufficient personnel to supervise the caseload, then I think it works much better than bail bonds. Fort Bend had a pre-trial release program there that worked very well when I was there. And on a defendant who is dead set on being a criminal, well, it is just more ammo for the punishment hearing and it is easier to get them off the street pre-trial if they are still engaging in criminal activity.
I didn't see any portion of the Constitution guaranteeing a bail bondsman the right to make wheelbarrows full of money over the right of the public to be safe. I think pre-trial bonding in many cases results in a more efficient system and lets us protect the public a bit more.
Well, if we are looking to protect the public, then I have found that a healthy, well-run bail bond board that keeps licensed bondsmen following the rules is the best way to make sure crooks show up for trial.
Like it or not, bondsmen at least have a financial incentive to make sure the defendant shows up. But that is only if someone takes the bond money when they fail to show up.
I personally don't have any problem with the bondsmen making money. They take the risk, no different than many rich people do in a different bond market.
What risk does the pretrial release program take? I suppose the biggest risk is one of being embarrassed by having a defendant run off. But, that rarely gets reported and doesn't change anything. There is no financial risk.
It also has been my experience that pretrial release offices don't keep looking for the defendant. They also don't forfeit the bond and make the defendant pay off on his promise. It is a meaningly piece of paper.
Bondsmen, at least until they have to pay off the bond, do keep looking. They also stay on the hook for the cost of any extradition, which can run up the bill substantially if you are really locating and bringing back these defendants.
The public would be appalled to learn how many open warrants exist because government agencies don't bother to look for, find or bring back crooks who run off.
JB, you should check out the pre-trial release system as administered by the Fort Bend probation department. Leighton Iles and his most capable staff not only do a good job administering the program, they actively seek FTA's. But actually I don't recall too many FTA's with their pre-trial program.
OK, let's say it does run well. Why should county taxpayers use their money to support a system that could be paid through the bondsmen system? With real bonds, the county collects money on forfeitures and gets the defendant back. With a pretrial release system, the county gets no money back on a forfeiture and spends money looking for the defendant and paying for his return. Then there is the additional beaurocratic expense of the employees it takes to run the program. Help me understand the net gain.
Bondsmen also can make the argument that the pretrial release system weakens the bonding system by skimming off the easy cases, leaving the higher risk cases for bondsmen.
Part of the thinking is that the defendant could pay his fine, court costs, and fees instead of it being paid to a bondsman. Whether that actually happens is another question.
Still, the county ends up subsidizing that shift of money. If we are going to evaluate the success of a pretrial release program, it should include noting the actual loss of money to the county from uncollected bond forfeitures. It should also compare the cost of running the program with the alleged money saved by the defendant and then paid to court costs, restitution and fines. I'm very skeptical that it would be a net gain for the county.
And this is the problem with government. It starts with a premise (that it would be better for the defendant to pay his lawyer and court costs than the bondsmen) and then never follows up to see if it proves to be true or doesn't include all the real costs in the evaluation.
For another model to raise that question, just watch the current promises in play right now about how spending a little bit of money on "programs" of rehabilitation will bring big savings in prison construction costs. Really? Who, exactly, will be keeping track of the new crimes and damages cost by early release?
[This message was edited by JB on 01-24-07 at .]
When I was a defense lawyer in Taylor County, the CSRP bond worked well in many situations. It helped some people who could not make a bond get out of jail, easing jail crowding concerns. Some paid their lawyer, but I don't remember seeing much of that myself. It also served at times as way for a defendant to prove or disprove his ability to make probation. As the prosecutor in another county now which does not have it, we get by without it, but I see instances where it would be useful.
On a related note, have any of you tried collecting attorney's fees on bond forfeitures which end up going to court. I have started asking for them. I know at least one court of appeals, not mine, says you can't get them, but I disagree. It seems if they had the threat of having to pay a little more for wasting my time they might settle up quicker.
Attorney's fee for the salaried prosecutor who seeks to enforce a bond contract. Hmmm. Are you saying Chapter 38 of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code applies? David Finney are you out there? Most bond forfeitures these days only involve interest and court costs and re-arrest fees anyway. I think you are going nowhere, but I wish you luck!
The Government code does not apply to BF's. Only the Code of Crim procedure does and the case is governed by the Code of Civil Proceedure. There is no provision in law for atty fees in a criminal case. BF's are criminal cases which is why the Govt Code and other substantive laws do not apply. Several cases on that.
Personal Bonds: If the purpose of a bond is to assure appearance, a personal bond with careful choice of who gets one is great. The accussed is presummed innocent and should not have to pay more to a Surety if he is likely to appear. Staistics find that the no-show rates are about equal.
Now, if the object is for us to make money on dissappearing defendants, Surety bonds are great. You can sue the the Personal bond def, but collection is rather hard. We use Scofflaw to prevent car regisrations until they pay us. We do sue on Personal bonds. It is not fair to Sureties if you do not.
Now, if the object is to ensure appearance a Surety may not have a finacial incentive at all! Most counties do not make them pay enough. Also, they are allowed to, and do, take security on the bond. They generally have no risk in an unsure case because of this. They will not write the bond without security. If the object of bonds are to secure appearances, that does not do it. Security should be outlawed! Many states have outlawed security because that allows the defendant to buy his way out of jail even if he is sure to run.
Some states have abolished Suerty bonds. They give personal bonds to good risks and no bond to those likely to split.
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