Thursday, March 24, 2011

Update on Florida SB 372 - Pretrial Release

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Tuesday SB 372, a bill to limit those who are eligible for government-funded pretrial release, was temporarily postponed in a Senate committee. The sponsor, Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff was unavoidably detained in another hearing.

The postponement did not discourage some heated testimony from the bill’s opponents. Most notable were Broward County Commissioner Stacy Ritter (who called the bill "The Bail Bondsmen Relief Act") as well as Pinellas County Sheriff Jim Coats.

It is noteworthy that almost none of the testimony was about SB 372 nor about who should qualify for pretrial release, nor the eligibility requirements being proposed. Instead, testimony was largely a diatribe about the ills of private surety bail and how government-funded pretrial release is superior.

The assertions made by the bureaucrat critics of the bail industry were almost fictionalized with numerous qualifiers like “it is estimated” or “sometimes." And much of the commentary were road swipes at the entire industry.

For example, Sheriff Coats stated:
"the only place a criminal justice system or a liberty decision is governed by a profit-making entity that will or will not take your business is the bail bond industry…”

Sheriff Coats went on to say that some in our industry were actively opposing this measure and were standing with him. Standing with Sheriff Coats were representatives of the Florida Association of Counties and another surety agent.

One further note; it is one thing for there to be disagreements between colleagues on approach or on the merits of a particular piece of legislation or even whether or not to support such legislation...but the fact that a representative of the surety industry stood shoulder to shoulder yesterday with Stacy Ritter and Jim Coats while they bashed our industry and maligned our profession is both disheartening and disappointing.

The role of sureties is not merely to support its agents and advocate for their success but to honor the bail profession and a system that has stood the test of time.

Tuesday was merely a postponement of a new law that will help preserve the bail profession, but one surety agent's overt support of one who demeans its very existence is an insult to the agents who have lived and died in the line of duty.

Read the testimony at:

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