by Jasmine Brianna Ellison
A bail bondsman is a person representing an agency or corporation that will act as collateral and offer money or property as bail. This acts as a legal promise that the defendant will appear in court.
Defendants and their families often sign contracts to pay roughly 10% of the bond proposed by the court. In certain circumstances, insurance companies will approve a down payment, as low as 3%, at which time the signee is responsible for an agreed upon payment plan.
If payments are not received, or the defendant does not appear in court, the bail bondsman is allowed to act as a bounty hunter. A skilled professional dedicated to find and capture a fugitive in exchange for a monetary reward. The reward, is considered the “bounty,” and is typically a percentage of the bail.
Families are held responsible for thousands of dollars’ worth of debt, regardless of which path the defendant takes.
Bail is a legal process guised to promote the ideal of due justice. Ethically, however, contracts are signed under duress. When a loved one is taken by law enforcement (regardless of innocence), there is an emotional instability to consider when reviewing the number of bails posted by civilians.
The fourth amendment explicitly states that citizens have the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.
The amendment prohibits officers to use excessive force when apprehending a suspect. Although this should not be violated, the specifics of the statues are immensely vague in. Furthermore, bail bondsman are not held to the same standard of the law as federal and state agents, the statues are immensely vague in what qualifies as a violation.
Men are being imprisoned for their unpaid bonds waiting months to fight their cases in court while behind bars in the meantime.
A report from the nonprofit Color of Change and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found that roughly 70 percent of those currently in jail have yet to be convicted of a crime. Additionally, the report highlighted the share of people arrested who were required to post money bail grew from 37 percent to 61 percent between 1990 and 2009.
The 8th Amendment to the United States Constitution states, "Excessive bail shall not be required," thus establishing bail as a constitutional right. What constitutes "excessive" is a matter of judicial discretion, and bail can be denied if the judge feels that it will not aid in forcing the accused back to trial.
When excessive become and ethical conversation instead of legal one?
In his recent state of the judiciary address, New York State’s chief judge drew attention to the disparity between the haves and the have-nots. He pointed out that the system is stacked against people accused of misdemeanor offenses, who, unable to afford the bail terms, have to stay in jail before trial. On average, it takes at least three months (and more likely, six months to a year) for a misdemeanor case to reach trial in New York City, which is a long time to spend in a cell before you've been convicted of anything.
Among defendants arrested in 2008 on non-felony charges and given bail of $1,000 or less, only 13% of defendants were able to post bail at arraignment."
Tim Murray, executive director of the Pretrial Justice Initiative research concluded that keeping an indigent person in jail prior to their hearing not only causes personal hardship for that person (and their family), but also seriously damages their ability to fight the charges.
Murray confirms, studies going back as far as the 1960’s "showing that defendants who are held pretrial are offered harsher plea offers than similarly situated defendants who are out on bail."
Bail bondsmen hide in the corners and shadows of the constitution like cockroaches in a cabinet. They act as bottom feeders that exploit the justice system; feasting on its uninformed victims finances and emotions. Their role in the justice system has prolonged the unethical incarceration of financially instable citizens for years.
1. Gillian B. White. Who Really Makes Money Off of Bail Bonds?. May 2017.
2. State Of Maine V. David G. Ullring. December 1999.
3. Sadhbh Walshe. America's bail system: one law for the rich, another for poor. February 2013.
4. United States of America 1789 (rev. 1992). www.ConstituteProject.org.