By: Mark Diaz
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Galveston Criminal Defense Attorney On Bail Bond Process & Bail Reform
Bonding Process in Galveston County
Hey guys, I’m back here giving y’all another live session. I apologize for not being here last week, I was in a jury trial for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty for my client.
This week, I thought that I would talk a little bit about bail bonds and the bond process here in Galveston, and then I’ll tie that into bail reform and how it has affected us. So, generally speaking, if you are arrested or charged with an offense, bail is set. You can either post a cash bail, which means you pay the money of the bail directly to the county, or you can use a bail bondsman.
Misdemeanor Bail Bond
A good example is let’s say it’s a simple misdemeanor, and your bond is set at $500. If you have the money, you can simply pay the $500 to the Sheriff’s Department. They will accept your money as the bond and let you out on what is called a cash bond. So, what happens to your money once the case is resolved, and that means ultimately, resolved, your money is refunded to you minus a small administrative fee.
Felony Bail Bond
When I say once your case is resolved, the money is refunded to you, that means whether you’re found guilty, not guilty, you take probation, whatever happens, once the case is over, your money is returned to you. Now, a lot of people don’t have that option. If their bond is, let’s say $50,000 for a felony offense. A lot of people don’t have $50,000 to just pay the county to be released and then you know, get their $50,000 back at some point.
Galveston County Bail Bond Companies
So that’s where a bail bonds company comes into play. They will charge you typically 10% of the bond amount to get out. So, on a $50,000 bond, the bonding company will charge you $5,000 for you to be released on bail, and you get absolutely none of that $5,000 back because it’s the fee that you’re paying for the bonding company taking liability on the entire $50,000 to the county, should you choose to run.
It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen that people flee. Then the bonding company can be on the hook to the county for that $50,000 If they don’t find you and produce you within a certain amount of time.
Bail Reform And Bond Reform
Now you may have heard, it’s been on the news, and it’s pretty much nationwide, there has been bail reform and bond reform across the country. Usually initiated by the ACLU, which aims at not necessarily lowering bond, but trying to make it where cash bond is not the whole reason that someone is sitting in jail.
So, here in Galveston what was initiated after the bail reform initiative started, was something called bail review. Let’s say you get arrested today. Your bond is set at $50,000 and you can’t make that bond either by yourself or through a bonding company. You will go to bail review, and you’ll have two opportunities to do that. It happens twice a day, around 6 am and then again around 6 pm. At bail review is a defense attorney, it is not your defense attorney for your case.
A defense attorney is there to review your bond amount and present any arguments that you may have for a reduction in bond to the magistrate conducting bail review. There’s also a prosecutor to argue against it if that’s appropriate. Many times, I’m told that the defense attorney and the prosecutor that are there reach an agreement on a bond reduction for people when it’s appropriate.
So, in Galveston County, if you’re in jail, and bond is set that you cannot afford, you will have one, maybe two opportunities at getting that bond lowered by a magistrate. Then you can bond out. Before bail reform, there was no such system in Galveston County. You would sit in jail until you could either afford an attorney to have a bail reduction hearing for you, or the court-appointed you an attorney.
The problem with that system was you could be looking at weeks before that could happen. People would sit in jail for all that time simply waiting to get a bond reduction before their case even actually got started. The problem with that is that most people cannot afford weeks in jail.
Most people’s jobs will not wait for them for weeks at a time. Bill collectors will certainly not wait when you get behind on your money. Forcing people to sit in jail simply because they can’t afford bond, in some situations has long and far-reaching problems. That was sort of the premise for bail reduction.
Bail Bond Companies Adjust To Reform
The other was it was increasingly being applied to poor people that did not have the financial means and they were unjustly being held incarcerated just because of bail for long periods of time. As a result of this, and people getting reductions, bonding companies were affected financially.
For private bonding companies, the way they make their money is by charging people 10% of their bond amount. What started happening was that bonding companies started competing with each other, for more business. Certain bonding companies started cutting their fees to be much less than 10%. Then they would give you a payment plan on the rest.
So what this has caused, and I’ve seen it on the news, is that since bonding companies have been willing to reduce the amount that they would take for bail, people with higher bails and more serious crimes are now making bail, when before this they could not. There have been stories of bonding companies taking as low as 2% for a person to get out.
So whereas if a person is charged with a serious crime, and let’s say they have a $100,000 bond, which was meant to hold them in custody, before it would have cost them $10,000 to get out. Families would have trouble raising that money. So if you got a bonding company now willing to take 2% on $100,000. That’s only $2,000.
Some people argue that bail reform has led to more serious offenders being released because of practices like that. Then, of course, that’s when you see on the news that this guy committed a crime, but he was already charged with some other serious crime that he was on bond for. It’s interesting, because, prior to bail reform, those that were proponents of bail reform did not see that the private market, meaning bonding companies would adjust.
However, it makes perfect sense. No one wants to go out of business because the system changed. They’re just going to change their practices so that they can continue to pay their employees, make money, and continue to do business. Now that it’s been quite a while, we’re starting to see how the reform has affected us. I know that in Harris County, there’s been a push to force bonding companies to accept 10% and 10% only and not less for bonds. We’ve not seen anything like that in Galveston, and in Galveston, we don’t have the same type of issues that they do in Harris County.
Although we do have people here in Galveston County that have taken advantage of it, and there are a couple of bonding companies out of Harris County that will do Galveston County bonds, and do them for substantially reduced down payments, and then have the client continue to make monthly payments on the full 10% amount.
So we do see that here, I saw it on the news, read several articles on it, and it just kind of piqued my interest so I thought I would talk about it here. Again, it’s not as widespread here as Harris County, but it has happened here in Galveston County. I have some clients out on some huge bonds, that I was shocked they were able to make but their bonding company worked with them. Have a good week, see y’all next time.
If you or a family member is facing charges in Texas, please contact Criminal Defense Attorney Mark Diaz right away. You can call (409) 572-8265 to schedule a free initial consultation with a Galveston County criminal defense attorney. Our office serves Galveston County and Greater Houston, and we are happy to explain the relevant legal concepts.