Harris County is experiencing a spike in violent crimes. Numerous media reports have shown that a significant portion of the increase in violent crimes have been committed by individuals who have been released on bail. One of the reasons for the increase in the number of defendants accused of violent crimes being released is that some bail bondsmen have been discounting and/or financing the fee to obtain a bond.
Historically, bail bondsmen have required a 10% fee to post a bond for a defendant. For example, if a judge sets a bond of $100,000, a defendant would normally be required to pay the bondsman a fee of $10,000. But there are numerous reports of some bondsmen either deeply discounting the fee or writing a bond for a small down payment and financing the balance. By engaging in these practices these bail bondsmen are effectively reducing the bond required by the court and financing a part of the fee creates an incentive for defendants to commit other crimes to make their payments.
Texas law establishes a bail bond board in large counties to regulate the bail bondsmen. The board members are representatives of law enforcement, the judiciary, the defense bar and the bail bond industry. In Harris County, there are 11 members. Its rules require a majority vote of the members present to enact a rule. At its meeting on March 9, the Harris Bail Bond Board considered a proposal that would have required a fee minimum of 10% of the total bond for most serious violent crimes. A vote on the proposed regulation failed on a vote of 4-2-2. There were two abstentions, and three members were absent.
There has been widespread community and bipartisan support for the proposed 10% minimum fee for violent crimes. The Harris County SAM Party recognizes that there are many problems with the cash bond system in Texas, including the unnecessary incarcerations of defendants accused of non-violent crimes just because they were unable to pay for bond. SAM also recognizes that the discounting of bond fees is not the only reason violent criminals are being irresponsibly released. The entire system is in dire need of a systemic review and reform and SAM intends to convene a task force to conduct such a review.
However, in the short-term, the irresponsible discounting of bond fees by some members of the bail bond industry for violent criminals must end.** We, therefore, strongly encourage all the members of the bail bond board to attend the next meeting and to vote to adopt this rule.
We also encourage all residents of Harris County regardless of their political affiliation, to voice their opinions on this subject. The bail bond board can be emailed at BailBondBoard@sheriff.hctx.net. The public can also speak at the meeting on April 13 which will be at 1:30. The meeting will be held at the Harris County Administrative Annex at 1001 Preston on the 9th Floor.
For more information contact:
Paula Arnold, Harris County SAM Party Chair