Anti-Bail Measures in Michigan, California and More

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Anti-Bail Measures in Michigan, California and More

Mahogany gavel on rest beside legal books at Judge's bench in courtroom

Sit tight, readers - things are about to get real. Even with the state of the country, the idea of cash bail reform is like Michael Myers in the Halloween movie franchise – it just won’t die and is still grabbing headlines. Bills are brewing in Michigan to make changes to that state’s criminal justice system, lawmakers in California refuse to believe the defeat of Proposition 25 last year, and we thought we’d remind clients of their responsibilities if they post cash bail.

What’s Happening in Michigan?

California, New York, and Illinois lead the way nationwide when it comes to the notion of reforming – or eliminating – the cash bail system, but other states are in the mix, too. The mitten-shaped state in the Midwest, Michigan – whose largest city, Detroit, was once known as the arsenal of democracy during World War II when car companies instead began producing machines of war – is getting ready to toss its hat into the ring.

Politics makes for strange bedfellows, so if bail bonding professionals thought they had it weird, imagine what people in Lansing, Michigan's capital, must be thinking. We live in a polarized country, but lawmakers on both sides of the aisle recently introduced "House Bills 6455-6463 to fundamentally reform Michigan’s cash bail system.” The legislation promises to “potentially save taxpayers millions” and lower the number of defendants awaiting trial in county jails.

The legislation would:

  • Make personal recognizance bonds the default form of pre-trial release.
  • Create an assessment process to determine a person’s financial situation and assets, which a judge would then use in the event that a cash bond is set.
  • Require courts to collect and submit quarterly data to the state Supreme Court about the cash bonds they levy and collect to assure that the cash bond system is not abused.
  • Urge local governments to use the savings from cash bond reforms for community policing efforts.

There’s no timetable for passage.

I Arranged Bail – What Am I On the Hook For?

Perhaps against all logic and reasoning, you arranged bail for a family member or close friend. The person you’ve bailed out is expected to show for court dates, but you’re the one who’s supposed to guarantee the defendant will show up. If that person runs, guess who’s on the hook for any additional fees? Yep. You are. The fees may even be used to pay a bounty hunter if one has to be hired. Basically, you agreed to put up bail, so now you’re responsible for the other person completely. You can wash your hands all you want, but the stain of a bad faith bail arrangement won’t run off anytime soon.

As any of our bail bonds agents would explain, if you're thinking of helping someone get out of jail, you're more than that person's "guardian angel." You're what's known as an indemnitor, and there's weight on your shoulder heavier than an angel's wings...

As the indemnitor, you take on take on three responsibilities:

  • The first and leading responsibility is that you, as the indemnitor, along with the assistance of our bail agency, will ensure the defendant shows up to every one of their court dates without failure.
  • If your friend or family member forgets to set an alarm and doesn’t show up as scheduled, you also take on the obligation of paying additional fees, if we have to hire a bounty hunter to bring the defendant back to court, as we mentioned above.
  • Finally, if the defendant can’t be found, you pay everything else – all fees and related expenses. If you put up collateral, like a real estate lien or pink slip, when you signed the bail contract, that will be utilized to pay off the bond and won’t be returned.

So be careful who you post bail for.

California Dreaming

As you expected, cash bail is still a big topic in California. Last November, that state’s voters cast ballots in a truly legitimate election (no “big lies” there) to reject Prop 25 but proponents of eliminating cash bail haven’t given up, and likely never will. What’s interesting in California is the sheer hypocrisy of the lawmakers drumming up support for another run at ending cash bail. Take Los Angeles Democrat Sen. Bob Hertzberg, for instance. In his eyes, like so many other elected officials, votes in a free and democratic election only matter when they tilt the scales of “justice” their way. In other words, the senator and his like are offering a slap in the face to residents of their state who legitimately voted against ending cash bail – basically saying, “You poor souls, you’re wrong and have no idea what you’re doing. We’ll fix it, again.”

According to one media report, “One of the thorniest issues of ending the cash bail system is determining what replaces it. The proposal under Prop. 25 to use algorithms to determine defendants’ risk came under fire not just from the bail industry, but also a small but vocal number of civil rights advocates who opposed or refused to endorse the measure. They worried that the risk algorithms already in use in other states or the federal court system would continue to disproportionately affect minority communities and the poor.”

Even if you’re a bondsman outside of California, say, in Jefferson County, Arapahoe County, or Denver County, for instance, you should still pay attention to what goes on a little further west. In many ways, that state is one of the few that “stirs the drink” for the U.S. criminal justice system.

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