In May 2019, the Texas House of Representatives approved a bail reform bill. Arising from incidents leading to federal court rulings, jail deaths and a state trooper’s murder, it changes the pretrial jailing practices in Texas. That affects the administration of bail bonds in Angleton, as there are new standards for setting bail. Here are the changes it proposes and how they will affect those seeking pretrial release:
- No changes to no-cost release: A proposed amendment would have kept poor people in jail longer even in cases of non-violent crime if there was a chance they would not comply with court procedure. As the amendment was constitutionally questionable, it did not survive lawmaker scrutiny. Release on personal recognizance remains available for first time offenders and non-violent offenses. Dangerous offenders still have to come up with cash if they wish for pretrial release.
- Magistrate qualifications: One of the factors leading to bail reform was the murder of a state trooper in 2017. He was shot by a suspect who was currently out of jail on a $15,500 bond. The concern was that magistrates were too dependent on ability to pay rather than assessing danger to the community and the likelihood of re-offense. Therefore, the bill seeks to increase qualifications of the magistrates and empower them with tools and data to make better decisions. Magistrates must now undergo four hours of relevant training in risk assessment and learn to assess criminal history and law enforcement safety.
- Risk assessment: However, while no-cost bail is preserved, it is more difficult to secure. All defendants will have to face a risk assessment even with non-violent crimes. It will consider past records, the nature of the crime and whether compliance with hearings and pretrial diversion is questionable. If you present as a reasonably cooperative defendant, chances are you can likely be released on your own recognizance. However, if you fail to show up for a court hearing, there will be no options for pretrial release unless you can pay. For the time being, tools for assessing risk are available at no cost to the counties.
- Bail bond business remains: Since there remains reliance on cash bail, there is still a demand for the bail bond industry. Anyone who fails the risk assessment and has cash bail imposed can still secure a bond and seek release. Penalties for failure to appear remain, and the bail bond agent can use collection practices and criminal charges to enforce their financial interest. While the bail bond industry opposed the risk assessment requirements, the governor required the appointment of a bail bond industry representative so our interests can be considered when enacting policies and regulations for this bill.
Brazoria County Bail Bonds remains available for those seeking bail bonds in Angleton. The new law may limit our opportunities, but it does not remove the bail bond process. Call or visit today to arrange for the timely pretrial release of a friend, a loved one or yourself. We look forward to assisting you.