Despite the request of three bail bond companies to delay the start of proposed revisions on new bail rules, a Harris County judge sided with lawyers for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and a list of new Democratic judges trying to loosen misdemeanor bail rules back in February.
The three bail bond companies argued that the court-ordered bail reform—which is a key step in a very controversial legal fight over the pretrial detainment of poor, low-level criminal offenders—would damage their Houston bail bonds business.
“They won’t get to write as many bail bonds as they did before and they won’t make as much money as they did before,” —Allan Van Fleet, a lawyer representing the judges.
Controversial Bail Reform in Harris County, Texas
The bail reform law in Texas is meant to help with financial inequality among low-level criminal offenders. In fact, it would automatically release 85% of people arrested for misdemeanor crimes on no-cash bonds. The exceptions to bail reform would include those arrested for bail violations, repeat DWI offenses and family violence.
However, the bail reform would still require defendants to appear before a judge or magistrate within 48 hour—at which they would also qualify for no-cash bonds.
Bail Bond Companies Fight Back
The three bail bond companies argue that the bail reform violates state law because it would guarantee a number of defendants a specific type of bail without first giving them individual hearings before a judge. Additionally, it would require the sheriff to reject certain bonds that would be valid under state law, among other reasons.
“We have a constitutional right to make our living by bail bonds and if they want to amend the way things are, they can do that but it still has to be by state law,” —Kevin Pennell, representing Set ‘Em Free Bail Bonds, A Better Bail Bond and Advantage Bail Bonds.
New Judges Jeopardize Bail Bonds Industry
Judge Larry Weiman of the 80th Civil Court countered the argument before he denied the order.
“Doesn’t the court have to balance the constitutional right of the defendants, those who are arrested and charged with a crime?” Weiman asked before resetting the temporary injunction hearing.
The judges, who were elected in November of 2018, announced the revised bail rules shortly after taking office. Chief U.S. District Court Judge Lee H. Rosenthal said that she would support the proposal at a hearing on February 1st on the bail reform lawsuit that is now settled.
The History on Bail Reform in Harris County
The major talks around bail reform began in 2016, when attorneys and civil rights groups sued Harris County on behalf of defendants jailed for days due to not being able to afford bail for low-level crimes.
In 2017, Judge Lee H. Rosenthal issued a preliminary injunction challenging the Harris County’s bail system, which relied on a set schedule that dictated amounts based on the crime committed. Upon finding that practice unconstitutional, the judge ordered Harris County to release low-level defendants on no-cash bonds within 24 hours of their arrest.
Harris County appealed that ruling, and the U.S. 5th Circuit asked Rosenthal to retool the order. So instead, she gave officials 48 hours to release defendants instead of 24 hours. The misdemeanor judges again appealed, but those Republican officials were cleared out in November and replaced by Democrat judges who withdrew the appeal and announced the new proposed bail rules.
ABC Bail Bonds
We are the most trusted bail bonds company in Houston, Texas. We’ve been serving and releasing Harris County inmates from jail for over 25 years, with fast and affordable bail bonds. For more information on bail bonds or to get someone out of jail today, contact our office.