If there is one thing we know about cash bail, it is this: Its opponents simply will not stop their march toward eliminating it. Scarily enough, these social class warriors may be cut from the same cloth as Confederate soldiers during the Civil War – thinking they were chosen by God to succeed. We know how well that worked out for them, right? Key happenings in the bail bonding frontier? Silent opposition in Colorado, stirrings in Maine, and controversy in Delaware.
The beauty of American democracy is no one has to say if they voted, let alone why they voted at all for a particular candidate or ballot initiative. For the typical U.S. voter, that is all fine and well. You have a right to silence, to not instigate insurrection among family, friends, or acquaintances. But what about duly elected leaders in your local community, state, or at the federal level? It is not unreasonable to think a person elected to higher office in Jefferson County, Arapahoe County, or Denver County or elsewhere in Colorado would display the courage to talk about their vote. Especially when it comes to ever-controversial measures at cash bail and other justice system reforms. But no.
Recently, two Colorado House Finance Committee members – Democratic state Reps. Matt Gray of Broomfield and Shannon Bird of Westminster – voted no on a proposed bill that would have implemented a reduction in jail populations and major pre-trial justice reforms. Strangely enough, both representatives declined to qualify their votes with a cogent explanation of why they voted the way they voted.
News reports say Democrats were unified on Senate Bill 273, which would have restricted law enforcement from making collars for low-level crimes like traffic violations and minor drug offenses, “and instead require them to issue a summons.” The goal was to address unfair jailing practices leading to mistreatment of minority communities in at risk populations.
The end-of-cash-bail movement just keeps on truckin’. Obviously, the apparent nationwide sentiment to address perceived racism and unjust financial penalties of the judicial system by abolishing something with more than a hundred-year history is disturbing to any bail bonding professionals. We have seen legislation in New York, Illinois and elsewhere become law, effectively doing away with the practice of cash bail to secure pre-trial release, and now activists are gaining headwind and victory in the far northeast. No, we are not talking China.
We are referring to what is happening in Maine, where a bill is being considered by the governor to end cash bail for minor crimes. Proponents of reforming the criminal legal system are understandably giddy about what has transpired.
Per a recent article in the Maine Beacon, “The legislation seeks to begin to address wealth-based inequalities in the Maine criminal justice system, with 60-80% of people in the state’s jails being held awaiting trial, often because they cannot afford to post bail. The economic disparity of who can and cannot afford to get out of jail before trial also cuts along racial lines, with Black people more likely to get a higher cash bail than white people for a similar charge and having less overall access to wealth to pay bail because of centuries of racism and discrimination.”
But the proposed legislation isn’t without potential controversy. As the saying goes, “you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.” In this case, some defendants who come before a Maine judge will not be able to pay bail and are more likely to not only get a longer sentence, but also to take a plea for a crime that someone else committed. As you can see, there are always dark, dangerous loopholes for someone to plunge through.
If you are a bondsman in Englewood or Golden, Colorado, here is a bit of news that may result in a wry smile. In the state of Delaware, which democratically-elected President Joe Biden – a lifelong Democrat and Washington, D.C. power broker since the 1970s – has called home for decades, the state senate approved a bill recently that sends a strong message about the winds of change and strength of public opinion.
The Newark Post said the Delaware state senate “approved a bill Thursday requiring more people charged with crimes to pay cash bail in order to be released from custody pending trial.
“The legislation, which cleared the Senate on a 19-2 vote and now goes to the House, establishes secured cash bail as the baseline to be used by judges in determining pretrial release conditions for people charged with 38 specific offenses. Those offenses include the most serious violent felonies, as well as certain gun crimes, sex crimes involving children, and certain domestic violence offenses.” Also, anyone charged with one of the offenses listed in the bill must surrender firearms while awaiting trial or the end of the case.
This means that any of our brethren in the bail bonds industry should be happy. For others who need explanation, we give a loan that lets you get released from jail. Because we want our money back, we can demand security in the shape of real property. If you skip court, you forfeit the security to the bondsman – which could be, for example, the title to your car. If you show for court, you keep your car. If you skip the date, the bail bondsman gets to keep the title to your car. Other security forms could include jewelry.