Bail bondsmen concerned about proposed state bill

Bail bondsmen concerned about proposed state bill
Source: KFDA
Source: KFDA

AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - Bail bonds could be eliminated in Texas if a pending bill is approved by the state legislature.

Senate Bill 1338 aims to eliminate cash bail bonds for low-level, non-violent offenders who may not be able to afford them.

The idea is to get those people out of jail quickly if they are not considered dangerous to the public.

But some local bail bondsmen say this would be an expensive and inefficient change to the state's court system.

The bill would require judges to file an automated risk assessment test for offenders within 48 hours of arrest.

This would look at their criminal records and see how likely they would be to come to court if released from jail without bail.

"Bail is not supposed to be punishment, it's not supposed to be oppressive," said Amarillo attorney Mike Warner. "Its sole purpose is to ensure that you show up when you're supposed to at court."

The risk assessment is designed to help people spend less time in jail, and in a majority of cases, could eliminate the need for bail bondsmen.

"They're afraid people are sitting in jail and they can't afford bail," said Josh Dixon, owner of Bargain and Dixon Bail Bonds. "So they come up with this criminal welfare system to release all the inmates in jail on their own pinky promise to show back up to court."

Dixon is one of at least 200 bondsmen who testified in Austin against the bill.

"It would put all of us out of business," said local bondwoman Judy Maples of Bail Bonds by Judy. "I personally would have to file bankruptcy."

She said the state has tried the risk assessment method before - and it failed.

Without bondsmen to keep defendants accountable, Maples said they weren't showing up to court.

"It was assigned to the probation department. They couldn't hire enough people. The people literally ran themselves to death running in and out to the jails, back and forth and back and forth during that time. It wasn't but about six months until the judges got tired of people not showing up and they threw it out."

Maples and Dixon said if the bond passes, tens of thousands of bondsmen could lose their jobs across the state, and county and city courts would have to pay more personnel to pick up the slack.

"I think it looks good on paper," said Warner, "but I don't really see how it's going to work."

This bill has passed through the state senate, and is going through reading and consideration stages in the house now.

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