Bail

Gainesville bail bondsman tracks down his fugitive to a remote pot farm on the other side of the country.

Score one for the good guys. There was an outstanding story published last week in the Gainesville Sun. Hats off to reporter Morgan Watkins for writing a great article about Gainesville bail agent Richard Roundtree and his successful efforts to return a fugitive to justice.

Richard Roundtree is a second-generation bondsman, who owns the bail agency that his father founded in 1956. Roundtree was born in Gainesville, Florida and has been writing bail there since 1978.

Bondsman Richard Roundtree

Bail Bond Agent Richard Roundtree

The Gainesville Sun article highlights some very important concepts. Secured private bail is not about releasing defendants from jail but rather it is an obligation to produce the defendant in court. Bail agent Richard Roundtree posted a $150,000.00 bail bond to secure the appearance of Darren Enoch Duck to face charges of trafficking in Ecstacy.

When Duck absconded, bondsman Roundtree had to locate, apprehend and surrender him back to the custody of the Alachua County Sheriff within 60-days of his failure to appear in court. Since Roundtree was unable to accomplish that in order to fulfill his obligation on the bond, Roundtree paid a substantial penalty — the entire $150,000 face amount of the forfeited bail bond. As the article points out, Roundtree had to use his retirement savings to help pay for the forfeited bond.

At this point, it is a safe bet that Roundtree was more motivated than any person on the planet to bring back Darren Enoch Duck to face justice. Alachua County, Florida has many outstanding deputies and police officers but it is unlikely that any lost sleep over Duck’s whereabouts. “I lost a lot of sleep over this one,” said Roundtree.

Private secured bail is so effective for precisely the reasons highlighted in this case. Roundtree had a very strong vested financial interest in bringing his fugitive back. He spent untold hours and over $36,000 of his own hard-earned money on this case. He eventually enlisted the services of fellow Florida bail agent Rolando Betancourt to help track down this fugitive. Betancourt, who has traveled all across the world to return bail skips, spent 46 days on the road tracking Duck. Betancourt ultimately succeeded in locating Duck and causing his arrest in California.

The Alachua County Sheriff sent deputies to California to retrieve Duck and return him in their custody to Gainesville, Florida for prosecution. Guess who reimbursed the Sheriff for the cost of this trip?  Bail agent Roundtree paid $2,277 to reimburse the Sheriff for their costs incurred in bringing Duck back. His obligation was to have the defendant appear in court in Gainesville, Florida. Roundtree did his job.

Not a dead duck but a captured Duck

Not a dead duck but a captured Duck

Articles like this one are uncommon, but the practices outlined take place every day. Bail agents guarantee the appearance in court of their defendants.  Most of the time, bail agents are able to have their clients in court as required. When a client fails to appear, the bail agent locates, apprehends and surrenders them back to the jail. If they are unable to accomplish this in time — as was the case with bail agent Roundtree — they pay the state a substantial penalty. Since Florida allows bail agents to recover some of their forfeited bail money for up to two years, bail agents continue to look for and capture fugitives.

Take a wild guess who is going to pay for New Jersey “bail reform”?

New Jersey governor “Chris” Christie makes a lot of noise about reining in government spending. But at least when it comes to “bail reform,” he is spectacularly hypocritical.

When he wasn’t bullying his opponents, Christie trudged throughout New Jersey touting his reforms. His message was simple: Lock up the bad violent criminals, even if they haven’t been convicted of anything yet. Oh, and while you are at it, just let all of the other criminals whom we think are non-violent out without having to post bail. This way, poor harmless defendants won’t have to languish in jail indefinitely. Every bondsman knows the fallacy of this poppycock. What Christie neglected to mention to voters is that he’d rather have accused criminals languish in his pal’s private halfway houses or “rehab” programs.

The “lock-up-the-scary-guys” rhetoric must have been convincing because New Jersey voters found it palatable enough to approve a Constitutional amendment, sanctioning Christie’s scheme.

New Jersey Governor Christie, hypocrite extrordinaire

New Jersey Governor Christie, hypocrite extrordinaire

This “bail reform” bill-of-goods is slated to start in 2016 and be fully implemented in 2017. Morris County now projects that will cost $5 million to pay for this unfunded mandate. New Jersey has twenty other counties

“From a policy standpoint, we think bail reform is going to work.  The cash bail system is antiquated and unfair,” said John Donnadio, executive director of the Association of Counties. But, he said, the dilemma is how counties will pay for it.

I know how they will pay for it. The taxpayers of New Jersey will get hosed. They will foot the entire bill for a plan that is destined to fail. Cops in New Jersey who arrest suspects will be encouraged to let many of them go, after simply issuing a summons to appear. Picture how this actually works. First, a police officer has probable cause to believe that a crime has occurred. Then, he or she arrests the suspect and reads them their rights. A “Live Scan Fingerprinting” machine instantly checks for holds and warrants. Finding none, the police officer uncuffs the probable criminal and says go forth and please don’t forget to appear in court for trial. What could possibly go wrong with that?

Those accused criminals who do manage to make it to jail will go through a “risk assessment process” rather than having to post private secured bail.  The pretrial release program will release accused criminals who score out as a “low” or “moderate” risk. Don’t worry about mistakenly letting out poor risks to appear; the government pretrial release program will employ a special algorithm tool that analyzes the defendant’s background check. Seriously.  It’s astounding that anyone with a brain buys into this. But the taxpayers of New Jersey are about to – to the tune of millions and millions of dollars.

And what of these poor defendants who no longer have to stay in jail because they supposedly cannot afford to pay a private bail agent to post bond? Those who score out as “low” or “moderate” on the magic algorithm tool will be released for “free” after meeting with newly hired government Pretrial Services employees. After they score out to be released for “free” so they don’t have to languish in jail on account of being poor, they will be charged for frequent urine tests and electronic monitoring and weekly check-ins with the government employees.

Many of these accused criminals will decide that this is more trouble and expense than it’s worth and determine that they cannot afford the costs of their “free” release. They will fail to appear in court. Warrants will be issued but no one will look for them, especially not the newly minted Pretrial Release program employees. That’s not their job, they will say. Someone from the government might tinker with the magic algorithm tool at some point, but no one will be held accountable for the non-appearance of defendants released pretrial.

It’s a safe bet that New Jersey Governor and now presidential candidate “Chris” Christie doesn’t want voters to know the real story: That he wants to replace secured bail bonds — a private enterprise that works — with a bloated, ineffective government program that is destined to fail spectacularly.

Newspeak: We no longer jail criminals, we “warehouse” people.

Obviously we may have some bad blood on display in this video, but the narrative is noteworthy. This public defender is evidently upset that the judge had the nerve to set a whopping $1,000 bail bond to secure the release and guarantee the appearance of his homeless client. The public defender disrespectfully mouths off to the judge that by requiring a bail bond he is causing this poor defendant to be warehoused.

What utter poppycock.

This man is not in jail because he is poor. He is not in jail because he is homeless. He is in jail because there is probable cause to believe that he broke the law. This public defender would have the judge believe that because he is poor, he will have to be “warehoused.” The judge knows better.

Let’s look at the facts. Assume that this poor defendant does not have access to $1,000. So, in order to secure his release from jail he needs to retain the services of a bail bond agent. In Broward County, Florida a licensed bail agent charges $150 to post a $1,000 bond. There are many, many hungry bail bond agents in Broward County, each eager to make a living and serve the public and the courts. Many of these bail agents would happily post this $1,000 bail bond in exchange for $150 and at least one stable, credit worthy, resident of Broward County who is willing to come forward and vouch for this guy and guarantee that he will appear in court. Many bail agents in Broward County, Florida will even allow family members or friends of the defendant to make payments towards the $150 if the bond is good.

What makes the bail bond good? One thing only: the defendant’s appearance in court at the proceeding for which the bond was written. How can a bail agent be confident that a defendant will appear? Usually by requiring that friends and family members of the defendant come forward and vouch for him. Typically, on a thousand dollar bond the bail agent would require only that family members sign to guarantee that they can have their relative appear in court. They don’t pay anything other than the $150, which, again, they can often make in installments. They simply agree to reimburse the bail agent the amount of the bail bond he posted — in this case, $1,000 — if the defendant flees and cannot be located by the bail agent.

So what happens when a defendant is charged with a crime and no one — not a single person in the world — is willing to vouch for him? What happens when his family members no longer trust him and he doesn’t have a single stable friend, employer, co-corker or even a trustworthy acquaintance? Probably, in such tragic cases there is nothing that can reasonably assure his appearance in court other than keeping him in jail. Homelessness, alcoholism and drug addiction are all big problems, often intertwined. But make no mistake, this poor man is not in jail because he is homeless. He is jail because he is charged with committing a crime and no one in his life thinks that he is a good bet to appear in court to face justice on the criminal charges filed against him.

There are alternatives. We could just give homeless people a pass — simply exempt them from being charged with a crime so that they don’t become “warehoused.” Or we could cite them instead of arresting them for a crime — which some cities are now doing more and more. Of course, when he fails to appear for his court case, a warrant is issued for  his arrest.

Advocates of publicly funded pretrial release programs would have us believe that poor, innocent people are languishing in jail — warehoused — simply due to their inability to post bail. Don’t you believe it. A bail bond agent is standing by ready to serve. He or she needs only a family member, friend, co-worker, employer, or trustworthy acquaintance who is willing to assist. That’s how bail works, and why bail works. The friends and family of the defendant and the bail agent have a vested financial interest in the appearance of the accused.