Monday, April 5, 2010

Mason-Dixon Poll: Florida Voters Oppose Use of Tax Dollars for Bail

ALEC Calls on Florida Lawmakers to Pass Senate Bill 782 and House Bill 445 (Washington D.C.): For Immediate Release

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) today released the findings of a recent Mason-Dixon poll showing that Florida voters strongly favor enacting a statewide law that would limit the use of their tax dollars to paying only for the release of indigent defendants who have been charged with a non-violent crime.

Statewide, 71 percent supported limiting the use of tax dollars, while 22 percent were opposed and 7 percent were undecided.

Currently, the Florida Legislature is considering Senate Bill 782 by Senator John Thrasher (R-St. Augustine) and House Bill 445 by Representative Chris Dorworth (R-Lake Mary), pertaining to changing Florida Statute as it relates to the government-run pretrial release programs. SB 782 and HB 445 requires that the defendant meet certain specified criteria in order to be eligible for pretrial release; narrows who is eligible for taxpayer-funded pretrial release; and moves more criminal offenders to a private, regulated and licensed bail system. The bills would still allow for the continued use of pretrial release programs for non-violent, first-time, non-dangerous indigent defendants.

ALEC has made reforming government-run bail a priority and believes this legislation will benefit Floridians. Support for the measure has widened to Florida's voters as evidenced by the Mason-Dixon poll:
  • 94 percent felt criminal defendants who have failed to appear in court on a previous offense should not be allowed to be released from jail using tax dollars;
  • 87 percent felt that if a criminal defendant can afford to pay their own bail for release from jail, they should not be allowed to be released from jail using tax dollars
  • 86 percent felt a criminal defendant that has been previously convicted of a violent crime should not be allowed to be released from jail using tax dollars, even if the court rules that they are indigent;
  • Only 15 percent of state voters were aware that 28 Florida counties allow criminals to be released from jail using taxpayer dollars instead of paying for their own release while they await trial; and
  • Support for the measure cuts across party lines with 65 percent of Democrats, 77 percent of Republicans and 72 percent of Independents favoring such a law.

ALEC's Public Safety Task Force Director Michael Hough said, "It is clear that taxpayers do not want to be left on the hook to pay the bill for releasing potentially dangerous criminals from jail. Pretrial release agencies should strictly serve the indigent, and commercial bail does a better job of protecting the public from dangerous criminals, while saving taxpayer dollars."

The poll was conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, Inc. of Washington, D.C. from March 23, 2010 through March 25, 2010, with a total of 625 registered Florida voters. The margin of error is no more than plus or minus four percentage points. The poll is available at:

Note: ALEC is the nation's largest non-partisan individual membership organization of state legislators.


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