Monday, November 2, 2009

Orlando Sentinel Article - Bail Bondsmen: Kill Orange pretrial release program

The October 31, 2009 edition of the Orlando Sentinel ran a story about the private surety bail industry's fight to ban administrative releases through the pretrial release program, where defendants are released without ever seeing a judge. While the article generally included factual statements, some comments were off point.

The private surety bail industry has filed a lawsuit with the 5th District Court of Appeal to prevent anyone other than a judge, or through a set bail schedule, from releasing an arrested defendant from jail. The Sentinel article stated that the, "fight centers on certain inmates considered minimal risks - first-time drunken drivers, people arrested on minor theft charges and other nonviolent crimes . . ." However, many individuals arrested for DUI and released through the pretrial release program are not first-time offenders, but their arrests and/or convictions for DUI fall outside of time parameters outlined in an administrative order governing release. In addition, the private surety bail industry contends that offenses such as aggravated assault/battery with a weapon, carrying/possessing a concealed firearm/weapon, burglary, grand theft 3rd degree, armed possession of drugs with intent to sell/deliver, exposing sexual organs, lewd/lascivious behavior, criminal use of identification, forgery, theft, child neglect, throwing a deadly missile at/into an occupied vehicle and numerous habitual driving offenses are not minor and/or non-violent offenses.

Many of the released inmates have lengthy criminal and/or driving offense histories and continue to not be held accountable for their actions by an easy and free release mechanism that offers limited and minimal face-to-face supervision or supervision through calling into an automated telephone answering system. The jail has been under capacity for most of the year, so continuing to release defendants charged with serious offenses is not addressing the issue of jail overcrowding at all. Nor is the true status of indigence being confirmed for any defendant released on your tax dollars.

County Commissioners have expressed concern regarding the pretrial release program because the private surety bail industry has made them aware of the types of releases actually occurring. Judges are accountable to the citizens who elect them for their release decisions; jail staff have no such responsibility to the voters.

Public policy affects public safety.

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