A Bail Bondsman’s Call to Arms – Analysis of Congressman Lieu’s No Money Bail Act of 2016

Last updated on April 14th, 2016 at 08:56 am

Political Corruption Pretrial ServicesAs Congressman Lieu’s No Money Bail Act ominously looms in the halls of the house of representatives, I thought I would give an analysis of Congressman Lieu’s No Money Bail Act of 2016.

First of all, the bill number is H.R. 4611 and it’s been referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations. The link to text of the bill is here. The text is also below with my comments and analysis inserted within it, which is in blue italics.

But before going into the details of the bill, it’s important to point out that this bill should not see the light of day because it’s simply unconstitutional. Even if it were a good bill which would improve the criminal justice systems of the states (which it is not), the federal government has no legal authority to tell the states how to run their criminal justice system for state laws. After speaking to the staffer of my congressman, this highly partisan bill will likely die in committee.

Now, getting to the text and of the bill and my analysis of it which is in italics,

H. R. 4611


To discourage the use of payment of money as a condition of pretrial release in criminal cases, and for other purposes.


IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

February 24, 2016


Mr. Ted Lieu of California (for himself, Mrs. Watson Coleman, Mrs. Lawrence, and Mr. Gallego) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary


A BILL

To discourage the use of payment of money as a condition of pretrial release in criminal cases, and for other purposes.

The big red flag of this statement is the last four words, “and for other purposes”. What other purposes? Is there another agenda here which is not being stated?

However, the real deceitfulness is in the first part of the sentence, “To discourage the use of payment of money as a condition of pretrial release in criminal cases”. If Congressman Lieu and the other democrats were honest, it would say “To transfer the bulk of the bail money from the private sector to the state, local, and/or federal governments; to expand the role of pretrial services at all levels even if violates the ‘guilty until proven innocent’ premise and violates the rights of defendants.”

As I’ve pointed out, Pretrial Services puts defendants through a probationary punishment prior to jail. For years, the pretrial services lobby has been trying, and largely failing, to end commercial bail. This is their attempt to finish it; it’s being done through unconstitutional means for the purpose of power and money. It is simply wrong and corrupt.

 
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the “No Money Bail Act of 2016”.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

Congress finds the following:

Before getting into the specifics of each one, I’m stating up front that I’m highly skeptical of these findings. I think congress should produce the data to support the assertions.

 
(1) Nearly 60 percent of the inmates in jails in the United States are pretrial detainees who have not been convicted of a crime, an estimated 75 percent of whom have been charged with nonviolent crimes.

Assuming true, this should be an indicator that the laws have become punitive and far too many people are being arrested for non-criminal, trivial offenses. An example of this would be when a pretrial services agent issues a capias on a defendant who has not checked in. Pretrial services agents have the authority to issue capias’ on defendants prior to their trial, which turns the principle “innocent until proven guilty” on it’s head. Among the endorsers of this bill is the National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies. Just understand that this group is neither concerned with attaining a more just criminal justice system nor the welfare of those most negatively effected. Their goal it to grow pretrial services agencies and end commercial bail, and if that happens to be to the detriment of defendants and criminal justice, that’s of no concern to them.

 
(2) Under current bail systems that use payment of money as a condition of pretrial release, nearly 50 percent of the most dangerous pretrial detainees are released without supervision, according to a study by the Arnold Foundation.

First of all, payment of money is always a condition of the bond, even in the states that have no commercial bail. The difference is the bail premium, usually 10%, is paid to the local jurisdiction rather than a bondsman. Then, after the case is closed and all court, jail, and any other fees the local government can squeeze out of defendants are paid, is the premium returned. Otherwise, all fees are taken from the premium. So, with no-bail states, someone who hasn’t the 10% bail fee is actually worse off than in bail states because governments do not work with people for the payment while many bail bondsmen will.

Secondly, the “detainees released without supervision” assertion is false. The pretrial services agent is just as powerless as the bail bondsman to prevent the released defendant from committing another crime. Also, if the defendant is dangerous to society, he or she should not be out on bond; that’s a separate issue unrelated to the bail bondsman.

 
(3) Throughout the Nation, those with money can buy their freedom while poor defendants remain incarcerated awaiting trial.

This is what the original stated goal of pretrial services and why it was created in the first place. If this is not being done, what good is pretrial services for and why is it wasting the taxpayer’s money?

 
(4) Pretrial detention costs State and local governments an estimated $14,000,000,000 each year.

What does this have to do with commercial bail bondsmen? If anything, this should give consideration to reduce costs by pairing down, if not eliminating pretrial services agencies. Pretrial services are funded by the taxpayer, bail bondsman are not.

 
(5) Pretrial detention should be based on whether the accused is likely to fail to appear in court or is a threat to public safety, not the ability to pay money as a condition of pretrial release.

That’s exactly what it is currently based on, and if commercial bail is ended, it won’t change that, which has been, and current is, the case in no-bail states.

 
(6) The States, the United States Department of Justice, law enforcement agencies, public officials, and community groups should collaborate to develop pretrial detention systems that improve public safety, reduce costs, and discourage criminal behavior.

Do bail bondsmen get to participate in the collaboration? I have an idea; change the laws to stop arresting people on frivolous charges. That would be the biggest bang for the buck. People should not be arrested for being poor. Specifically, what I’m talking about is states which suspend people’s driver’s licenses for not paying fees and fines. As I mentioned in my book, You Arrested Me for What?, this is the equivalent to a debtor’s prison.

 
SEC. 3. ELIGIBILITY FOR GRANTS UNDER THE BYRNE JAG PROGRAM.

I don’t know what this section actually means. My guess is it has something to do with the allocation of money, but I’m not sure so I’ll defer on commenting on this section.

 
Section 505 of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. 3755) is amended—

(1) in subsection (a)—

(A) by adding at the end the following:

“(3) ELIGIBILITY.—Beginning with the third fiscal year beginning after the enactment of the “No Money Bail Act of 2016”, the Attorney General shall not allocate any amounts appropriated to carry out this part to any State that uses payment of money as a condition of pretrial release with respect to criminal cases.”; and

(B) in paragraph (1) by striking “in paragraph (2)” and inserting “in paragraphs (2) and (3)”; and

(2) in subsection (f)—

(A) by striking “If the Attorney General” and inserting “(1) IN GENERAL.—If the Attorney General”; and

(B) by adding at the end the following:

“(2) STATE INELIGIBLE DUE TO SYSTEM OF BAIL.—Notwithstanding paragraph (1), if the Attorney General determines with respect to any grant period that a State is made ineligible by subsection (a)(3), the Attorney General shall reallocate any amounts allocated to or that would have been allocated to such State for such period—

“(A) among the other eligible States; and

“(B) in proportion to allocations among eligible States under subsection (a).”.

SEC. 4. PROHIBITION OF MONEY BAIL IN FEDERAL CRIMINAL CASES.

Notwithstanding any provision of Federal law, no justice, judge, or other judicial official in any court created by or under article III of the Constitution of the United States may use payment of money as a condition of pretrial release in any criminal case.

This is the meat of the bill. From my understanding, it prohibits a “justice, judge, or judicial official” from using payment of money for pretrial release. However, it doesn’t prohibit a government or government agency from using money as a payment for pretrial release, and that is how no-bail states like Kentucky, Illinois, and Oregon operate.

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