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Bail Bonding Facing Elimination in Ohio

Bail Bonds sign and gavel on judge's mahogany desk

Recent events in Wisconsin where a career criminal ran down revelers gathered for the annual Christmas parade in the town of Waukesha, killing 6 and injuring more than 60, should have been a national wake-up call regarding the total failure of bail reform.

The alleged driver in that incident had a lengthy rap sheet, (which included being a registered sex offender with an outstanding arrest warrant from Nevada), and had been arrested just weeks earlier for attempting to run over a woman at a gas station. Given his history, he should have been held after that episode. Instead, he was released on a mere $1,000 bond and went on to commit mass murder in Waukesha.

Surely the good people of Ohio were paying attention to that incident and will now stand in united opposition to 2 pieces of legislation - Senate Bill 182 and House Bill 315 - aimed at dismembering cash bail and eliminating the bail bond agent in their state. Right? Not quite.

With everything from vaccine mandates to soaring inflation and all the activity surrounding the holidays, it seems both bills are effectively flying under the radar, slowly working their way through the Ohio legislature with the help of anti-bail zealots at the now-discredited Arnold Ventures.

The Definition of Insanity

The classic definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. In this case, the "thing" in question is eliminating bail and releasing virtually everyone on personal recognizance (PR). That philosophy was responsible for what happened in Waukesha. It's also the motor driving the plague of smash and grab mall robberies currently underway in California.

Those committing these robberies have nothing to lose because they know that in no-bail California even if they're caught they'll be out in a few hours without having to post any bail. And if they go to another mall and get caught again, they'll be released again, no questions asked. But it's not just California. Crime is also spiking in other no-bail states such as New York and Illinois.

And now the same people who created the chaos unfolding in California and elsewhere are trying to do the same in Ohio. If the bills currently pending before the Ohio legislature are allowed to become law it's estimated that up to 90% of those typically held pending trial will instead be released back onto the streets. Can anything short of California-style chaos be far behind if that happens?

Who Needs Public Safety?

Here are the two most important principles enshrined in Senate Bill 182 and House Bill 315 that are currently being considered by the Ohio legislature:

  1. The presumption of release - With only a few exceptions these bills create the presumption that the accused will be released without even affordable bail bonds being requested. Just flat out released on PR.
  2. Public safety cannot be weighed when deciding whether to release someone - That's right. These bills state that public safety can no longer be considered when determining whether to release someone. Nor can their prior criminal history. This is the principle behind what happened in Waukesha.

There are other details in the bill that tie the hands of prosecutors, but the two principles stated above are the ones that are going to negatively impact law-abiding citizens in Ohio most directly.

These principles have been tried in many other states and in some of them lawmakers have seen the error of their ways and begun to roll back unlimited catch and release. For instance:

  • Texas recently passed legislation making it more difficult to be released on PR.
  • Utah has repealed most aspects of its bail reform legislation after crime began spiking in the state.
  • Delaware too has passed legislation restricting “catch and release”.
  • Alaska repealed its disastrous bail reform measure completely in 2019.
  • New York, former poster child for bail reform, has begun rolling back catch and release in some circumstances and is debating reinstating bail.
  • And right here in Lakewood, affordable bail bonds were saved when lawmakers reversed course after crime spiked following the elimination of cash bail bonding in Denver County.

And yet while states across the country are waking up to the often deadly cost of eliminating bail and the bail bond company, Ohio continues to drift toward the cliff, largely because the media is simply not covering the story. If 24-hour bail bonds are eliminated all evidence suggests that Ohio will become less safe, and that fewer accused criminals will show up to face their day in court.

The desire to get their bail money back has long provided a strong incentive for people to show up for their court date. Eliminate that incentive and what reason does a career criminal have to show up in court? None. Texas is a good example of this.

Prior to experimenting with bail reform, the state had a no-show rate on cases that involved bail of about 10%. After eliminating bail the no-show rate on crimes that used to be bail-worthy had jumped from 10% to 50%. No show of course means no justice for the victims.

Where to go Ohio?

Ohio sits at a crossroads. While people are distracted by other problems, bail reformers are quietly pushing their misbegotten anti-bonding company agenda through the legislature. This effort must be stopped or by this time next year $5 gas will be the least of the problems facing Ohio residents.

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