There is no doubt the COVID-19 pandemic has upset routines, and the court system is not immune. On March 29, Texas Governor Greg Abbott stripped judges of the discretion to grant personal recognizance bonds to defendants by signing a new emergency order. He issued the order due to concerns that violent offenders were being released out of COVID-19 concerns with no consideration for public safety. Texas judges disagree, and the possibility of no-money bonds in Angleton has been reduced. Here is an overview of this situation and how it will affect bail bonds.
What are no-money bonds?
No-money bonds are exactly as their name implies. Rather than impose bail and create the need for a bail bond, defendants are released with the promise that they will return to court. Basically, there is no money security to ensure that return, and it is based on trust alone.
Judges have absolute discretion to determine when this is appropriate. Factors like ties to the community, nonviolent elements of the crimes or a lack of a previous criminal record may lead to a defendant being released on a no-money bond. Also, as COVID-19 concerns have courts releasing people from jail to reduce crowding and the chance of spread, the use of no-money bonds has expanded to detain only those people who are absolute dangers to the community.
However, the governor was concerned that violent offenders were now being released into the community. That is why he signed an order that prevents judges from granting no-money bonds for defendants charged with violent offenses or who have a history of previous violent offenses.
What happens next?
A judge in the 261st District in Austin granted a temporary restraining order against the governor’s order, claiming that it stripped judges of their discretion. The ruling indicated that the emergency order violates separation of powers between the executive and judicial branches, and it currently cannot be enforced until there is a permanent decision.
Then, the Texas Supreme Court stayed the temporary order after the government filed a petition for a writ of mandamus. Plaintiffs continue to claim that the Disaster Act does not allow the governor to suspend judicial discretion.
Criminal defense attorneys are also concerned. When defendants are not allowed release on a no-money bond, that increases their jailhouse visits with clients to secure signatures. That also places them at risk of infection, which can be greatly reduced with social distancing policies outside of jail.
Right now, this matter is not settled, and there is no indication of when that will happen. Basically, for the time being, no-money bonds will be harder to come by, and for those who cannot pay bail, they will require better access to bail bonds to ensure their release.
With no-money bonds being limited in Angleton, you or your loved one must find another key to freedom. Brazoria County Bail Bonds is a bail bond agent, and we are located near the courthouse. Contact us today to secure a bail bond or learn more about how we can help.