One Friday per month it is my privilege to provide pro-bono assistance to Latino defendants and their State Court public defenders during Spanish language arraignments and trials. I do not serve as the court interpreter as I choose not to be neutral but, rather, accompany the immigrants through what can be an intimidating process.
Over the last two years I have become increasingly concerned over how bail monies are handled, especially by bail bondsman.
Pertaining to the function of a bail bondsperson, Georgia law clearly states:
“Sureties on criminal bonds in any court shall not charge or receive more than 12 percent of the principal amount of bonds set in the amount of $10,000.00 or less and shall not charge or receive more than 15 percent of the principal amount of bonds set in an amount in excess of $10,000.00 as compensation from defendants or from anyone acting for defendants.”
“Shall not charge or receive.”
Think you understand? Good, here’s a quiz — An unlicenseable Latino immigrant is stopped at a local police roadblock; the unlicenseable driver is arrested and the car is impounded. The unlicenseable driver is booked at the Troup County Jail and if the only charge is driving without a license the bond is set between $500 and $1,000. OK, here’s the question – Say the bond is $1,000; if the unlicenseable immigrant is poor and contacts a bail bonding agency, how much should the bond amount be? (HINT: “shall not charge or receive more than 12 percent…”)
If you guessed $120, in Troup County if you contact a local bail bonding agency, your answer is – WRONG! Try… $1,120.
How is it that bail bonding agencies can circumvent the law by charging 112% when anything over 12% appears to be a crime. The only rationale I have ever heard for this is that the law may also allow a bail bondsman to hold “collateral” but I doubt collateral was meant to be cash because…
Question #2 – If a poor, unlicenseable driver can come up with $1,120, why do they even need a bail bonding agency if cash bonds can be paid directly to the jail? The answer is, “THEY SHOULDN’T!”
The Troup County Jail is equipped to accept cash and property bonds and I’ve even translated a bond-related form for the jail. Now, in fairness to the jail, it has a new administrator who I find to be a very approachable gentleman. He is aware of this matter and I trust that as our relationship continues to build trust he will find a creative way of informing Latino detainees of the direct payment of bail process. This procedural change is critical because, even if all Latinos could get a refund on their “collateral” (I’m convinced not all do), they’re still unnecessarily having to pay a third party the 12% and that’s a sizable amount of money when you’re poor and humiliated with an arrest.
What happens to the bail bonds of immigrants in your community?