text messaging court dates

Friendly text reminder to begin serving jail sentence may not be sufficient

I just got a text message to remind me of my upcoming doctor’s appointment. I already had the appointment scheduled in my calendar but the text was unobtrusive so it didn’t bother me. Besides, I’m sure that these texts help some people remember to keep their appointments.

“Friendly reminders” might not be enough

I have a pretty good idea of what will likely happen at my doctor’s office. They will weigh me and take my vitals. My doctor will examine me and ask questions about my health and well being. There’s a good chance he’ll encourage me to keep on exercising and eating healthy foods. His staff will collect my co-pay and schedule my next appointment.  Based upon my past experiences the visit won’t take long and I’ll leave my doctor’s office in a good mood.

Here is what I know with a great degree of certainty will not happen during my upcoming doctor’s appointment. They will not handcuff me and cart me off to jail and refuse to let me go home.

Text message reminders are a good thing. Many licensed bail agents use this tool already and make it a routine practice to text court date reminders to both their bail bond principals and to their family members who sign on the bond.

The bail reform charlatans, however, are peddling poppycock to policy makers that text reminders are sufficient to assure court appearances. This bogus claim intentionally ignores critical facts. Some defendants don’t want to go to court. Some defendants are guilty as sin and they know it. Some defendants —though presumed to be innocent — are most certainly anything but. Some defendants are inevitably and deservedly headed to jail or prison. A friendly text reminder won’t do the trick to assure their appearance for sentencing.

Across the country there are hundreds of thousands of open bench warrants for the arrest of felons who have absconded. The dunderheads at outfits like “Pretrial Justice Institute” would have us believe that we can round up these hordes of dangerous criminals by sending text message reminders. Bail Agents know better.

You know what types of text messages are much more effective than “friendly” text reminders? A message that your family and loved ones are financially accountable for your appearance in court. A message that a licensed bail agent faces the imposition of a substantial financial penalty if you fail to appear and that he or she will go to great lengths to avoid that.  So-called “money bail” works because money incentivizes people. All other forms of pretrial release tend to be figments of everyone’s imagination. We value money. So by pledging money we are placing something we value as security to assure the appearance in court of accused criminals.

Which sort of text message do you think is more effective at guaranteeing the court appearance of an accused criminal?

  1. Hi there! Just a friendly reminder of your court date tomorrow in courtroom 4E at 9am!

  2. Hi there! You must be in court tomorrow at 9am before the Honorable Judge Jack Johnson to face criminal charges that you committed robbery and possession of cocaine. If you fail to appear your grandmother is at risk of losing her family home. In addition, the bail agent will make it his or her life’s mission to locate, apprehend and return you to jail. He or she will not fail in that obligation. That will not prevent, however, each of your relatives who signed to guarantee your bond from suffering financially. So do the right thing. Your family and loved ones and your bail agent assisted you in securing your bond so you could be released pretrial. Return the favor by rewarding their trust and appearing in court to face the consequences of your actions. You must do this even if you don’t “feel like it” or want to.

If you make a living peddling junk science for the “University of Pretrial” you might go with option “1.” The rest of us, of course, would select “2.”  (Bonus question: What “university” has no professors, no campus, no text books, and has never been responsible for the appearance in court of an accused criminal?)

Bail works because people —including the accused criminal —are held accountable for their actions.

Text message reminders are a wonderful tool in the arsenal. But let’s not fool ourselves for a second that a “friendly text message” can replace a financially accountable licensed bail agent.

 

Text messaging defendant court date notifications: A great practice that makes a lot of sense – when it it’s done by private bail agents rather than inept, unaccountable government workers.

The vocal advocates of publicly-funded “free” pretrial release programs have a continuing problem. Large numbers of their clients commit new crimes when released through these programs. More importantly, large numbers of their clients fail to appear in court. Judges, prosecutors and victims of crimes don’t like it when this happens. One option, of course, would be to release accused criminals on secured, monetary bail. When a defendant is released through a private bail agent, there is a tangible financial incentive for the released defendant to do the right thing. The bail agent pays a substantial penalty if they fail to produce his or her defendant in court. To protect this guarantee the bail agent almost invariably enrolls friends and family members to secure the bail bond.

The “no money bail” zealots, however, are adamantly opposed to anyone having skin in the game. They don’t think that anyone should be held financially accountable for the appearance of an accused defendant released pretrial. So in order to solve the problem of unacceptable failure to appear rates, they are now suggesting that simply texting court date reminders will be sufficient to guarantee court appearance.

It is laughable that the hundreds of thousands of fugitives across the country would willingly appear for trial if only they had gotten a friendly text reminding them of their court date.

Further, sending text messages to defendants out on bail is something that many private bail agents have been doing for years. They routinely send reminders and notices to not only the defendant but also friends, family members and employers who have signed on the bond.

One agent, Kahlil Welsh of Orlando, Florida uses text messaging for his own clients. Seeing what an effective tool is it, he founded a company that automates the process and makes it available to other bail agents. You can check out his outstanding mobile messaging platform for bail agents at his ecourtdate website.

According to Kahlil:

“The system is currently in beta testing for a re-launch this year with new features and improved reminders. And if I may recap, text message and email reminders are by no means a fix all solution to defendants failing to appear. It simply acts as an aid to the savvy bondsman who’s seeking to improve customer service and reduce the failure to appear rates caused by forgetful minds. Effectively ensuring a defendants appearance at court will always be a “boots on the ground” hands on effort, best performed by The Private Surety Bail Agent. It is my professional opinion as a 20 year veteran of the bail industry that simply sending  a text, or email to a defendant who has intentionally failed to appear, will not surpass the wealth of resources and the National reach of the local Bail Bondsman.”

Thank you, Kahlil! We couldn’t agree more.