…And Besides, Intellectual Honesty Doesn’t Win Elections

Here’s how bonds work in Texas:

D is arrested. Unless his case fits into a few narrow exceptions (capital murder, habitual felony, felony while on bond, deadly-weapon felony after felony conviction, or violent or sexual felony while on parole or probation) he is entitled to bail. High bail can’t be used as an “instrument of oppression”; if a person is entitled to bail (and almost everyone is), he’s entitled to reasonable bail. Bail should be high enough to reasonably assure that D will come to court and won’t break the law.

(In Harris County the judges have agreed to a bail schedule (PDF)—$50,000 for murders, $30,000 for other deadly-weapon felonies, $20,000 for other first-degree felonies, $10,000 for other second-degree felonies, and so on.)

The purpose of bail is to reasonably assure that D will come to court when told to.

Bail can be made in the form of a bail bond or a personal bond. A bail bond is a promise by D to pay the bail amount if he fails to come to court. A bail bond can be a surety bond, secured with the signatures of sureties (typically a bonding company, which charges around 10% of the bail amount for accepting the liability) or a cash bond, secured with the bail amount deposited with the court.

Once D has made bond, whether in the form of a personal bond, a cash bond, or a surety bond, he is released. His bail can be forfeited or revoked if he breaks the law or fails to appear in court, or (on a surety bond) if the surety surrenders him.

The court can put other conditions on D’s bond—for example, don’t have any contact with the complainant, don’t use drugs, don’t drive, for example—and if D violates these conditions his bond can be forfeited or revoked.

My friend Kelly Case, who is running in the Montgomery County, Texas Republican Party primary for judge of the 9th District Court, writes on his campaign blog:

[I]n the 9th, if you are charged with a case that involves a sexual allegation such as aggravated sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault of a child, or similar, and you have the right attorney, you too can get out of jail free.

Shocked? You should be!

Fred Edwards sees nothing wrong with granting a free pass to serious felonies by granting them PR bonds. His record is very clear on this point. He has stated that he would grant PR bonds for all cases, if he had his way. While he claims to be tough on crime, he is releasing extremely dangerous criminals back into our midst, even though the DA’s Office has sought to keep them in jail, until trial.

Serious felonies on PR bond?????

The “right attorney” bit might be interesting. If Judge Edwards is giving preference to some lawyers’ clients, Case should say so. He should say who, he should say why, and he should say how he knows. If he thinks there is corruption involved, Case should have the backbone to say so. If he doesn’t, “the right attorney” is mere innuendo.

Otherwise, Case is playing to the ignorant scared white Republican voters, and it is beneath him.

Case, a longtime and respected criminal-defense lawyer, knows that the DA’s Office seeks to keep many people in jail who don’t belong there. He knows that the DA’s Office often seeks unconstitutional no-bonds and unconstitutionally high bonds. He knows that the judge’s job is not to give the DA’s office what they seek.

Case knows that getting out of jail is not “a free pass.” He knows that bail is to ensure the defendant’s appearance in court. He knows that personal bonds are underused. He knows that sex offenders are less likely to recidivate than other offenders.

Case knows that bail can’t be used as an instrument of oppression. He knows that its primary purpose is to reasonably assure the defendant’s appearance. He knows that while the future safety of the community is a consideration, there are all sorts of sexual assault allegations, and someone charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child is not necessarily a greater danger to the community than someone charged with DWI. He knows that letting a person out of jail on a $30,000 surety bond does not necessarily make him less of a danger to the community than letting him out on his own recognizance or a $30,000 personal bond.

Rather than play to their fears, Case could use this campaign as a platform to educate the voters about how the system works. But that’d be hard.

7 responses to “…And Besides, Intellectual Honesty Doesn’t Win Elections”

  1. I remember when Judge Edwards was charged with DWI. Obviously drunk, and even staggering on the video, he got the charges dropped nevertheless. When a member of the judiciary is granted special favors such as he was, I always suspect they owe someone. They become a puppet of the DA or the arresting agency. I think that Case didn’t want to mention the favored attorney because he doesn’t wish to start a pissing contest. But anyone who practices regularly in Montgomery county already knows who the favored attorneys are anyway. I remember a case a few months ago involving a two-time felon from a wealthy family who was charged with child sex crimes. He had the famous Dick D. as his attorney and deals were made, but being Montgomery county and all, the presiding judge didn’t want the negative publicity that would surely come with granting another probated term to a felon already on probation, so he called in sick and allowed a visiting judge to grant the unusual sentence. We all know how the game is played…

    • “He’s a puppet of law enforcement” would probably win the election for Edwards. Edwards being a puppet of the DA or the arresting agency is a narrative that is inconsistent with his “releasing extremely dangerous criminals back into our midst, even though the DA’s Office has sought to keep them in jail.”

      I get that Case might not want to “start a pissing contest” by telling the truth. Like I say, that’d be hard. But the route he has chosen instead—innuendo, and playing to voters’ irrational fears—is beneath him.

  2. Edwards IS a puppet but knows (just as the DA knows, too) that every once in a while favors can be done without much retribution. A case here and there likely won’t hurt as long as he grants a favor for the DA to help even the score. And I want to be clear that I’m not just bashing Edwards, because most every judge in Montgomery county is owned by the DA. The exception would be Judge Cara Woods. She has given Ligon fits and is likely a cause of his premature gray cap. Once, she even had the audacity to order all law enforcement officers from her court. They were in the gallery menacing jurors with their intimidating stares and she just had had enough. She let them know it was her courtroom, and that she controlled what occurred there. It was one of my favorite days in the Montgomery courthouse. But did she ever catch a lot of flack for that. Here is the case but it doesn’t say anything about her kicking the officers out. But she damn sure did: http://montgomerycountypolicereporter.com/?p=15177

  3. This seems to be more a sad reflection of the fact that many SWRVs think that it’s the judge’s “job” (and the DA’s job, for that matter) to throw people in jail.

  4. You know–it’s kind of bizarre–but I worry a whole lot more about my misdemeanor clients not showing for court/absconding than I do (generally) about my serious felony cases. (I have to add a caveat that makes an exception for persons snagged on big interstate/interdiction dope courier busts–they’re high percentage bail forfeitures out here in the sticks).
    What pisses me off (and I see this a lot where I live and practice in several counties in east Texas) is there is no rhyme, reason or consistency to bail amounts.
    You can take 2 guys–one is charged with agg sex assault of a child . Down the road a guy gets the identical charge. One might get a $10,000 bond while the other catches a million dollar bond. And that can come from the same damn magistrate! I’ve seen a lot of abusive practices over the years in the way bail is used as a negotiation tool by the state.

  5. Damn, the consistency of a bond schedule for some serious felonies makes me jealous, particularly if there is the possibility of doing better on the bond (PR bond) with certain judges. There are a lot of difficult jurisdictions in Georgia that just routinely deny bond on serious felonies with very little evidentiary basis to believe that the Defendant would not appear….

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