Professional Bondsmen of Texas

Category: News

US 5th Circuit Reverses Houston Federal

Court's Bail Order
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has reversed the preliminary injunction issued by Judge Rosethal in Cause No. 17-20333; O'Donnell v. Harris County; In United States Court of Appeals for the 5th District.
The court of appeals disagreed with the trial court in three respects:

(1) The court of appeals disagreed with the trial court's definition of O'Donnell’s liberty interest under due process arguing that the trial court's interpretation was too broad, and that the procedures it required to protect that interest were too onerous.

(2) The court of appeals disagreed with the trial court regarding whether the County Sheriff could be sued under Sec. 1983.

(3) The court of appeals held that the district court’s injunction was overbraod, failed to address the issue raised and proposed language for a replacement order which was more limited.

Each of these issues are detrimental to the plaintiffs. On the first issue, the trial court had a tortured liberty interest description which held that any time a defendant said they could not afford bail, any bail set was in essence a preventative detention order and the defendant had to be released. The court of appeals rejected this argument and set out a much more restrained liberty interest than the trial court. The court of appeals recognized that the ability to pay was only one consideration in setting bail; not the only consideration. On the second issue, the court of appeals dismissed the sheriff from the case. The trial court had ordered the Sheriff to undertake certain tasks which the trial court recognized that it could not order the judges to undertake. The trial court will no longer be able to do this. Finally, the court of appeals agreed with the county in holding that the preliminary injunction was overbroad. Further, the court of appeals recast the purpose of the preliminary injunction to serve a very limited purpose of ensuring a process for review instead of a get out of jail free card.

You can download a copy of the court's opinion by
clicking Here

State’s Top Judge Calls For Legislature
To Enact Bail Reform

In his State of the Judiciary address, Chief Justice Nathan Hecht said the current system often keeps poorer, low-risk defendants in jail until their trial, while better-off, high-risk defendants can pay their way out.


Andrew Schneider | Houston Public Media Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht delivers the 2017 State of the Judiciary Address to the Texas Legislature

Texas’ top judge is calling on the Legislature to overhaul the state’s bail system. Chief Justice Nathan Hecht endorsed bail reform as part of his State of the Judiciary address. Hecht said the current bail system discriminates against poorer defendants. Those who are arrested and cannot afford their bail are forced to remain in jail until their trial date, even if they pose no threat to the community and no flight risk.

Special Coverage Of The 85th Texas Legislative Session

“And to add to the nonsense,” Hecht said, “Texas law limits judges’ power to detain high-risk defendants. High-risk defendants, a threat to society, are freed. Low-risk defendants sit in jail, a burden on taxpayers. It makes no sense.”
The chief justice noted that courts in five counties now use risk assessment tools which show the majority of people charged with non-violent crimes can be released on their own recognizance without danger to the public.
“The [Texas] Judicial Council recommends that this be standard practice throughout the state,” Hecht said. “Liberty and common sense demand this reform.” Harris County is currently the subject of a federal lawsuit over its bail practices. District Attorney Kim Ogg made bail reform one of her signature issues during her election campaign last year.

Dear Bondsmen,

Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02) introduced the H.R. 6016 Citizens Right to Know Act on September 13, 2016 that would require federally-funded bail programs to provide detailed information on the defendants released through any taxpayer-funded pretrial release program.

PBUS and its lobbyist have been working with Congressman Poe’s office to champion such a bill, which has resulted in an important milestone for the bail industry! This is a direct result of our combined legislative and lobbying initiatives - thanks to all who have supported this effort!

This is a key step in our fight to preserve financial bail and to bring accountability to such taxpayer-funded programs that have been proven to be the least effective means of pretrial release. Please take the opportunity to thank Congressman Poe for his leadership on this important bill and contact your legislators to encourage them to support and sign-on to this bill.


Sep 13 2016

Washington, D.C.—Today, Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02) introduced the H.R. 6016 Citizens Right to Know Act.

Right now, U.S. taxpayers fund millions of dollars annually for the operation of pre–trial release programs — government-funded programs that allow accused criminals to await their trial at home. These programs–filled with many cases that involve repeat, violent and hardened criminals––operate with little oversight. As a result, taxpayers are literally bailing out dangerous criminals around the country. In some instances, those released commit terrible crimes while on pretrial release. With increased oversight of the pre-trial release program, these crimes can be avoided.

“Right now the federal government is engaging in the ultimate taxpayer bailout, a bailout for hardened criminals,” said Congressman Poe. “Their crimes run the gamut, from shoplifting to murder. My bill will require record-keeping and reporting on participants in these federally funded pre-trial release programs, specifically whether the defendants have a history of criminal behavior, whether or not they actually appear for their trial, and whether they have ever failed to appear for trial in prior cases. Taxpayers deserve to know if their resources are being spent wisely, and that their communities are being protected.”

Note: Congressman Poe, a former judge, originally introduced similar legislation during the 112th Congress.


Beth Chapman
Professional Bail Agents of the U.S.

THIS IS A TEXAS CALL TO ACTION: All Texas Bondsmen should send a letter or contact your Congressman about supporting H.R. 6016 this bill introduced by Congressman Ted Poe. Please take action today to protect our profession and our citizens from criminals running loose on the streets.

American Surety Company Lowers Costs for Bail Bonds in Indiana

Lower Premiums Make Bail more Affordable…

INDIANAPOLIS, March 29, 2016 /PRNewswire/ – – Indiana-based American Surety Company has filed with the Indiana Department of Insurance an 8 percent rate for its bail bond surety line. This represents a 20 percent reduction over the longstanding rate of 10 percent. The reduced rate becomes effective March 30, 2016 for American Surety Company representatives operating in Indiana. "With this rate reduction American Surety Company is making the most effective option for pretrial release in the country, according to a 2007 study by the DOJ - Bureau of Justice Statistics, more affordable for offenders seeking release from jail pending trial. By making bail bonds more affordable, defendants can obtain release from jail quicker and return to work, family and prepare for trial. This move also has the added value of relieving jail crowding resulting in significant annual savings to Indiana taxpayers in housing costs," says William B. Carmichael, President & CEO American Surety Company.

American Surety Company is a privately held Indiana based Property & Casualty company licensed in 49 states specializing in criminal appearance bonds.

Sheriff candidates talk jail strategies

As overcrowding, staff shortages threaten non-compliance, Republican hopefuls disagree on housing inmates

Odessa American
Odessa American

Just The Facts

  • Seat: Ector County Sheriff.
  • Term: Four years.
  • Salary/Benefits: The base salary for sheriff is $82,534 per year, or $39.68 per hour. But as tenured county employees, either candidate would stand to earn longevity pay on top of that amount and possibly retain the step increases earned from their current positions. Incumbent Sheriff Mark Donaldson’s pay budgeted for Fiscal Year 2016 comes out to $88,094. With benefits, he makes $122,519. County Auditor David Austin said, depending on the Ector County Commissioners’ Court, that either candidate to replace Donaldson would probably make a similar amount. “I don’t really think there would be much change in any of this, because they both should be collecting longevity anyway,” Austin said.

Posted on Jan 17, 2016
by Corey Paul

The Republican candidates to replace longtime Sheriff Mark Donaldson both say finding a way to halt overcrowding at the Ector County Detention Center is a top priority.

But the strategies outlined by the candidates, Donaldson’s longtime rival Joe Commander and his preferred successor Mike Griffis, present some significant contrasts.

This primary decides the race as there is no Democratic candidate.

The jail faces the dual threat of a shortage of jailers and a rising inmate population. In 2013, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards warned county officials that Ector County faced the prospect of failing to comply with state standards that include a bed for every inmate and a 1-to-48 ratio of inmates to jailers. Another warning came in February 2015.

The consequences of failing to comply could be dire. The state could take over the jail. The county could be on the hook for sending all of its more than 700 inmates to other counties, paying millions to house them. Faced with that catastrophe, Donaldson, with commissioners’ blessing, began sending low-risk inmates out of Ector County to other jails, now in Lynn, Hale and Hudspeth counties. For now, the Ector County Commissioner’s court has budgeted $1.8 million for this fiscal year to pay for the program of shipping out inmates. And here lies the chief disagreement between the Republican candidates about how to manage the jail. Commander calls for ending the program

Griffis calls for keeping it in place until county officials can work out a long-term solution. To shore up staffing, both candidates said they would seek to recruit locally and acknowledged that the lagging economy has already helped decrease vacancies. Today, there are 11 open positions for jailers, down from more than 20, but the sheriff’s office still has to assign overtime to keep the jail staffed. Both candidates were effusive in praise of the jail staff, and Commander emphasized plans to keep all of the employees at the jail, seeking to debunk what he said were rumors that he would fire them.

But crowding at the jail presents the more intractable problem, each candidate said. In separate interviews, both said a long-term solution might require a vote from Ector County commissioners to expand the jail. Commander, the chief investigator for the Ector County District Attorney’s Office, said the county should look at a temporary and less-expensive facility inside Ector County to house inmates. But Commander said he does not fault Donaldson for shipping inmates elsewhere because it was necessary to keep the jail in compliance.

“I think he’s done a good job since he’s been in office with the jail, with the difficulties he’s had and with the short staff,” Commander said. “He’s done the best he could. He really had no choice I guess, but still that’s a ($1.8 million) a year cost to the taxpayers. We should have been looking at other things to solve that problem.” Commander said he would explore a temporary detention facility on land outside the jail similar to the 72-bed insulated vinyl structure that Midland Sheriff Gary Painter established in 2010 as part of an effort to combat overcrowding at the Tall City’s jail (The Midland County jail is smaller than the Ector County jail at about 500 beds, including beds in the vinyl structure).

Commander said he would only pursue that plan if it proved cheaper than housing inmates in other counties. “I’d rather have that $1.8 million spent here in our county, fixing this as a long-term solution,” Commander said. Painter, who calls the structure a “tent,” said it required an upfront cost of about $986,000 to build and about two jailers to staff it, along with ongoing heating and utility costs. Painter only houses minimum security inmates at the structure.
Meanwhile, Griffis, Donaldson’s No. 3 at the sheriff’s office, said he would stay the course shipping inmates to other counties.
“We have a great plan in place,” said Griffis, whose duties as third-in-command include helping to manage the jail.
“We are in compliance with jail standards right now, and we have put more people in place.”

But Griffis said he would also advocate for the Ector County Commissioners’ Court to act on a long-discussed plan to allow the county to act as a bonding entity, which would allow more inmates to bond out of jail but remain under county oversight, alleviating the jail population. Separately, Commander said he would push for a similar measure as Griffis. This week, 102 inmates were housed outside of Ector County, leaving 620 at the local jail. The jail’s capacity is 667, leaving some wiggle room for the nights that police officers, deputies, troopers and the occasional federal agent bring in a haul of inmates that can exceed 50 in a day.

Meanwhile, District Attorney Bobby Bland is seeking to hire three additional prosecutors that he says could help speed up cases and reduce the jail populations. A new fifth district court, the 446th, recently started hearing cases that the four remaining district judges say should help them move criminal cases more quickly, again thinning out the jail population.

But those efforts are maybes, and they are outside of the sheriff’s direct control in his capacity as jail administrator. The Odessa American asked each candidate what each of them could do, directly, as sheriff.

Griffis said he would seek cooperation from other law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to relieve the jail population. He would continue to advocate for ticket-and-release for certain non-violent misdemeanors, saying “not everybody needs to go to jail.”

And he would seek more federal grants to help fund investigations of high-level criminals, especially traffickers of methamphetamine, a drug that he said accounts for a vast majority of the inmates’ crimes, “over 90 percent,” he said. “We’ve got to,” Griffis said. “It’s taken over. It’s an epidemic.” Separately, Commander said he would seek to create “a gang unit” from deputies under the sheriff’s office that would focus on high-level arrests with a similar goal of reducing drug-related crime in Ector County.

Commander said he would also look to expand pre-sentence monitoring in order to move misdemeanor offenders out of the jail, push state prison officials for faster retrieval of inmates headed to prison and draw on his relationships with prosecutors, judges and other law enforcement agencies to coordinate inter-agency efforts to draw down the jail population.

“The deputies that are on the streets, they are working as hard as they can and doing their best,” Commander said. “But I believe there needs to be a new leadership, especially for the overcrowding. Housing inmates is just a band-aid solution to the increase in crime that we’ve seen over the last few years. I don’t believe the current leadership has been open to any new ideas and they have not been building those relationships necessary to make that complicated system work.”

The jail is an $18.3 million enterprise, per the county’s 2016 budget. But as crime swelled during the oil boom, it also became one of the chief liabilities facing Ector County government. Both candidates point to their experience as qualifying them to run the jail.

Griffis presents himself as devoted a 20-year employee of the sheriff’s office, mindful of using limited monies wisely, whose duties since his October promotion include helping to administer the jail and a direct understanding of its issues.
Commander presents himself as a long-time county law enforcement official with broader experience, plugged into the facets of the criminal justice system with a career that includes supervisory duties. He also touts a stint in the 1980s as a jail supervisor in Lubbock and then in the private sector as the co-owner of an oilfield forklift businesses that stayed afloat during the bust.
For his part, Donaldson said there have been few major developments apart from the yet-to-be-seen effects of the new 446th District Court and planned hiring of new prosecutors toward keeping the jail in compliance. One was the hiring of more jailers, which the sheriff said he expects to continue amid the lagging economy. The other was County Attorney Dusty Gallivan’s work to allow law enforcement agencies to issue tickets for some class B and class A misdemeanors. Today, the only class C misdemeanor arrests the jail will accept relate to family violence and public intoxication.

For whoever replaces him, Donaldson said “the whole key to it is you’ve got to know what you are doing and manage this jail. That’s the key to making sure you stay in compliance. It’s not a fly-by-night back to the old days.” He is clear in endorsing Griffis, and digging at an old rival. But ultimately, keeping the jail in compliance also depends on speeding up the criminal justice process, Donaldson said. And, in his view, “if the process can’t be sped up, there is no alternative other than we keep shipping them out.”

And there is another point where the Republican sheriff candidates agree. As Commander put it, “that jail is probably the biggest headache that a sheriff will have.”

Contact Corey Paul on Twitter @OAcrude on Facebook at OA Corey Paul or call 432-333-7768.

Bail bond industry gears up to fight proposal

By Thomas J. Cole / Journal Investigative Reporter
Published: Friday, January 15th, 2016 at 11:40pm
Updated: Saturday, January 16th, 2016 at 10:27pm

Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal

The bail industry, already under siege because of changes in the pretrial release system for people charged with crimes, says it will be in a fight for its economic life when the state Legislature convenes Tuesday.
On lawmakers’ agenda is a two-part proposed amendment on bail to the New Mexico Constitution. The first part would allow judges to deny bail to dangerous defendants; the second part would prohibit defendants who aren’t a danger from being held prior to trial solely because of a financial inability to post bail.
The bail industry says it doesn’t have a problem with part one, but contends the second part would lead to a flood of appeals from defendants claiming they should be released without bail because they can’t afford it. The industry believes judges would for the most part stop requiring commercial bail to avoid drowning.

MADRID: "It Essentially does away with us"

“It essentially does away with us,” says Albuquerque bail bondsman Gerald Madrid, president of the Bail Bond Association of New Mexico and a member of a family with three generations in the bail business across the state.
Madrid also says that allowing defendants to go free because they say they can’t afford bail would open the floodgates for release of criminals, including repeat offenders, who aren’t dangerous enough to be held without bail but still pose threats to public safety. Law enforcement, not bail bondsmen, would have to go after them when they fail to appear in court.
The industry, with the help of two of the best connected lobbyists in Santa Fe, will try to convince legislators to axe the part of the proposed amendment dealing with financial inability to post bail.
State Attorney General Hector Balderas also says the provision needs further review and he isn’t supportive of it. He says he supports the first part of the proposed amendment as a means to keep dangerous criminals off the street.

WIRTH: "Prime Sponsor of the Amendment"

But Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, a prime sponsor of the proposed amendment, says the provision on financial inability to post bail is needed to sell some lawmakers on the first part dealing with pretrial detention of dangerous defendants.
“I think it’s very much a package deal,” says House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, also a supporter of the proposed amendment.
The bail industry says it doesn’t believe removing the provision dealing with financial inability to post bail would kill the proposed amendment.
Wirth rejects the argument that courts would be overburdened in dealing with indigency claims from defendants who can’t make bail. “This is not rocket science,” he says. “We already do this in determining whether someone is entitled to a public defender.”
He also says there is a fairness issue. Defendants shouldn’t be held pending trial because they can’t afford bail, while other defendants go free because they have the financial resources to make bail, Wirth says. A bail bonds company typically charges a 10 percent fee to post a bond for a defendant’s release.
The United States and the Philippines are reported to be the only countries whose pretrial release systems are dominated by commercial bail bond companies. A group called Equal Justice Under Law has filed several lawsuits around the country, alleging that keeping people jailed solely because they can’t pay a cash bond violates the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Justice Department has sided with the group. (Shocking)
State Supreme Court Justice Charles Daniels, an outspoken supporter of the proposed constitutional amendment, has said it is established law that a person cannot be held because of a financial inability to post a bond, but the industry argues that the question hasn’t been settled by the courts.
Other voices The proposed constitutional amendment has bipartisan support. In addition to the Supreme Court, other backers include the state District Attorney’s Association, the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and the American Civil Liberties Union. (Again Shocking)
“The proposed amendment will help protect our communities without eroding the rights of accused citizens to fair and impartial justice while they are still presumed to be innocent” pending trial, says Artie Pepin, director of the Administrative Office of the Courts.
Despite the backing of the Supreme Court, the second part of the proposed amendment could face some opposition from trial judges.
In December, a Supreme Court advisory committee on bail rejected a proposed court rule that would prohibit defendants from being held pending trial solely because of a financial inability to post bail.
In a letter to the Supreme Court, judges for the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court in Albuquerque said they were concerned about the added work of holding hearings to decide if defendants were being held solely because of a financial inability to post bail.
Karen Mitchell, a longtime magistrate judge in Harding County, wrote to the court that she was concerned that courts would become “ripe for numerous and extensive hearings on the issue of bond.”
Chief District Judge Karen Townsend of Aztec posed this question to the Supreme Court: “What could be a principled response to a person who argues: ‘I just don’t think I should have to pay my bond when others don’t have to pay their bonds?’ ”
One other significant hurdle for the proposed amendment could be the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by Richard Martinez, D-Española. Martinez has said he is concerned that judges would abuse the provision allowing for pretrial detention of dangerous defendants without bail. He couldn’t be reached for comment for this story.
If approved by the Legislature, the proposed constitutional amendment would go before voters in November.
Right to bail
Currently, nearly all defendants are entitled to bail under New Mexico law, and Daniels says the result is that dangerous defendants are being released on bail, while defendants who pose no danger are being held simply because of a financial inability to post bail.
The proposed constitutional amendment would allow a district judge to deny bail to a felony defendant if the judge found there was clear and convincing evidence that no release conditions would reasonably protect any person or the community.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that, with few exceptions, a defendant must be released pending trial on the least restrictive conditions necessary to reasonably assure the person’s appearance in court and safeguard the public. A judge can require a defendant to post a secured bond either individually or through a bail bondsmen only if other release conditions won’t reasonably guarantee appearance in court and public safety.
Since the court ruling, some judges have sharply increased the number of defendants being released on personal recognizance or upon the execution of an unsecured appearance bond, which is a promise by the defendant to pay a certain amount of money should he be the person fail to appear in court. The bail industry says that has sharply reduced its business.

Protecting Bondsmen

with Body Armor

On the 31st July, a man named Nolan Potter stole a bail bondsman’s car, driving it away at speeds of up to 115 miles per hour, before crashing it minutes later. Mr. Potter had been on his way to the McClain County Jail in Oklahoma to turn himself in for drug charges, before taking the bail bondsman’s vehicle. This incident seems fairly innocuous compared to many of the situations a bail bondsman will find him or herself in, yet it highlights the dangers they will face.

It is fortunate that this individual did nothing more than steal a car, and yet he was clearly a danger to himself and others given his actions. The nature of his charges suggests that he was perhaps not thinking clearly, and this is indicative of a bondsman’s work; dealing with individuals who at best will be uncooperative is a regular part of the job. It is however, unreasonable to expect this to be dealt with without protection, and a bullet proof vest is a necessity.

If we consider the above example, we see numerous reasons to justify protecting bondsmen. Firstly, the actions of this individual suggest he was not thinking clearly, and when dealing with people who have already fled from court, aggression and even violence has to be expected. The type of vest a bondsman wears is a largely personal choice, and depends on the most likely weapons that may be involved; firearms may be the most ubiquitous, but knives and needles can be just as deadly, and a bullet proof vest will not protect against them.

Before being apprehended by the Police, Mr. Potter drove the car at extreme speeds before crashing. Had the Bondsman been in the car, he or she could have suffered severe injuries. Many do not realise that a bullet proof vest offers a great deal of protection in traffic collisions, and had the bondsman been involved, body armor could have saved his or her life. This is because the protective fibers that help stop a bullet also absorb the energy of the impact, meaning injury from brute force and blunt trauma can be somewhat avoided. DuPont, the makers of Kevlar, celebrate Police Officers whose lives have been saved by Kevlar annually, and a large number of these were involved in traffic collisions.

Dealing with uncooperative, dangerous and disturbed individuals is a regular part of a bondsman’s duties, and protection should reflect this. Preparation is the most important part of bringing back fugitives, and this extends to choosing body armor. Whatever the choice, it must reflect the most likely dangers being faced. This will ensure that, even in volatile and spontaneous situations like the one involving Mr. Potter, a bondsman can keep him or herself safe.

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