The Bail Reform Fight Continues

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Updated on September 22nd 2023

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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 Utah residents are facing struggles of their own. Review the latest details on each state's fight against misguided bail bonding reform bills in the following guide from Tayler Made Bail Bonding.

California’s At It Again

One thing any news-aware bondsman knows is this: When lawmakers and activists get it in their heads that cash bail is evil, they’ll stop at almost nothing to end it. Forget about the economic havoc that could have on thousands of hardworking, law-abiding American citizens working in the industry, or the possible recidivism on the part of criminals which may result.

Two New Bills Under Consideration in California.

What would California’s proposed SB262/AB 329 do? The “bills would set bail at zero dollars for misdemeanors and most felony charges. For all other crimes, the bills would require the California Judicial Council to create a uniform bail schedule with standard bail amounts statewide. (Currently, each county sets a bail schedule.) Exceptions to zero bail include, among others, serious or violent felonies, violations of specified protective orders, battery against a spouse, sex offenses, and driving under the influence.

“The bills would also require the court to order a return of money or property paid to a bail bond licensee, by contract entered into on or after January 1, 2022, to obtain bail if the action against the person is dismissed, no charges are filed within 60 days of arrest, or the person has made all court appearances during the pendency of the action or proceeding. The bills would authorize the bail bond licensee to retain a surcharge not to exceed 5% of the amount paid.”

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.

Problems in Utah

As you already know, the bail bonds industry takes heavy fire all across the country. Instead of trying to implement common-sense reform, or tweaking existing bail laws, lawmakers and activists are going full-bore. It's all or nothing. Either end cash bail, and hope that nothing brown hits the fan, or don't do anything but blame everyone else.

Illinois just ended cash bail completely, and now the desire to enforce criminal justice reform is starting to take root in allegedly ultra-conservative Utah. Basically, legislators in that state wanted more latitude in setting bail and went to, some would say, extreme measures to get it. Yep, they got what they wanted, and are now feeling the tummy ache of buyer’s remorse.

The Utah reform set four factors for a judge to consider when deciding what kind of conditions or monetary bail to put in place: Public safety risk, make sure the defendant shows in court, ensure the safety of witnesses and victims, and ensure the truthfulness of the court process.

Some bail bonding professionals, we’re sure, will be concerned that judges in Utah will be wary of potential lawsuits from the likes of the ACLU, especially if they do or don’t set bail in certain cases. Yes, it’s a mess, and one we need to pay attention to for fallout.

Now, Utah lawmakers, law enforcement, and some voters are calling the new law a disaster and are working to get it repealed – within months of implementation. Others are arguing the legislation needs to be tweaked or just given more time.

This seems to be common in states where cash bail reform is pending. Passion runs high, and people make decisions without thinking through what can and should be done.

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