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Bail lawsuit 2.0

This one will be tougher to tackle, but the principle remains the same.

A hard-fought battle to reform Harris County’s bail system has prompted a second civil rights action.

The legal team that successfully challenged the county’s bail practices for low level offenses on the grounds they unfairly detained indigents, filed a new federal class action suit this week tackling money bail for felonies, which results in thousands of poor defendants being locked up before trial or entering guilty pleas to avoid lengthy incarceration.

This new lawsuit, which hit the docket during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, claims the county is holding people unjustly, simply because they cannot afford to pay a cash bail. Currently, people arrested who can post a cash bond or hire a commercial bonding company can simply resume their lives as their cases proceed through the criminal docket.

The lawyers argue that pretrial release should not be contingent on how much money a person has. Its one of a number of lawsuits around the country, including one before a district judge in Galveston, attempting to topple bail systems that treat people differently based on their income.

“This mass detention caused by arrestees’ inability to access money has devastating consequences for arrested individuals, for their families, and for the community,” the lawsuit argues. “Pretrial detention of presumptively innocent individuals causes them to lose their jobs and shelter, interrupts vital medication cycles, worsens mental health conditions, makes people working to remain sober more likely to relapse, and separates parents and children.”

[…]

The lawsuit noted there are human costs to keeping people in jail. Since 2009, the complaint stated, 125 people have died while awaiting trial in the county lockup, including a woman who committed suicide this month after she could not pay her original bail of $3,000.

“Now is the time for a new vision and a new era of collaboration and innovation,” the lawyers said in a joint statement to the Houston Chronicle. “We are confident that with the leadership of the county judge, the sheriff, the district attorney, the public defender, and the felony judges, all of whom have expressed their commitment to bail reform, we will be able to resolve this case without wasting millions of dollars of taxpayer money as happened in the prior case.”

Most of the key stakeholders struck a similar note in responding to the new lawsuit.

Tom Berg, first assistant to District Attorney Kim Ogg,said the office is glad to work with the parties toward “a fair, just and speedy resolution” and at the same time “responsibly conserve the county’s resources so that they go for the staffing needed for bail reform implementation and not litigation costs.”

County Judge Lina Hidalgo said the county aims to support public safety, fairness and a cost-effective, fiscally responsible system. She acknowledged that there’s a long way to go.

“We’ve got a system that in a way fails on all three fronts,” she said Tuesday. Hidalgo said the crop of newly elected officials seem dedicated to enacting these types of change.

The sheriff also mentioned safety concerns, saying felony bail improvements require careful examination. However, he lauded the idea of reforming what he has referred to as a “broken system.”

“I support all efforts to improve our criminal justice system that strike a smart balance between our duty to ensure public safety and upholding our American ideal that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty in court,” Gonzalez said. “I support equipping judges with the data they need to accurately measure each defendant’s unique risk of failing to appear in court and committing additional crimes before they stand trial.”

Of the three plaintiffs in this lawsuit, two were busted for drug possession and the other for DUI. There’s still a lot of non-violent inmates in the jail awaiting disposition of their case because they couldn’t scrape up a bond payment. As with misdemeanants, the ability to write a check to a bail bond agency has no correlation with whether you will show up for your court date or if you are likely to commit further crimes while out. Again, Robert Durst was out on bail. It makes sense to separate the genuine risks from the harmless shlubs. Will such a system be perfect? No, of course not. Some people who get out on a personal recognizance bond are going to turn out to have been bad risks. But again – I can’t say this often enough – people do that right now, under the current system. We just accept it as the way things are. Well, the way things are is capricious, unjust, and almost certainly unconstitutional, as the system for misdemeanors was as well. We’ll never have a better chance to design a better system. Let’s get to it.

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45 Comments

  1. Paul Kubosh says:

    The DUI is a felony. That means this is the third time he got caught. That means twice before he was found guilty. If it is a felony DUI that means he is an alcoholic. What society needs is for this guy to get a tax payer funded bond so he go out and have some non-violent DUI driving. When he gets into a non-violent wreck and kills someone we can say oh well at least he didn’t have to post a Surety bond.

    The world is upside down. I am sure the federal Judge (Bush appointee, right?) will agree he needs a cash bond. Just another reason I voted for Obama.

  2. Terrance Jewett says:

    Paul I am so confused. If you feel like everyone who gets arrested should be in jail to avoid hurting someone why do you help people get out of jail when you are paid to do so?

  3. C.L. says:

    Huh ? A felony DUI means you’re an alcoholic ? Gonna hafta Google up some Six Degrees of Separation on that one…

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    C.L.: Occam’s Razor. We are just guessing this is a 3rd DWI. It could be a 4th, 5th or 12th. But let’s just be optimistic. He’s been caught and convicted at least 2 times for DWI. He’s probably driven drunk more than 3 times, and the fact that he didn’t change his behavior after the first couple (or more) indicates he has a drinking problem. Walks like a duck……

    TL;DR: It’s possible the guy isn’t an alcoholic, but I wouldn’t bet on that.

    I know a guy just like this. Very hardworking, honest, nice guy, would give you the shirt off his back, but he’s had literally at least a dozen DWI’s. He’s done state jail time several times. He has lost it all several times because of those stints in jail. Each time though, he gets out, gets a job, and takes care of himself. And he still can’t stop driving drunk, because he’s an alcoholic.

    You and I don’t understand. We’d say, “dude, just don’t drive if you’ve been drinking.” It seems obvious to us because we aren’t alcoholics. He obviously can’t just do that, unless he gets help and gets sober. Keep in mind that doing stints in state prison where he was forced to dry out didn’t stop him from being an alcoholic.

  5. Bill Daniels says:

    I don’t know what the answer is to the problem of DWI. The breath test interlock machines seem like they might be promising, but you’d have to have enforcement of that. Real enforcement. That means, spot checks, investigation to make sure the drunk doesn’t have access to other vehicles, etc.

  6. Manny Barrera says:

    Just tax the heck out of alcoholic beverages, yeah like those elected officials are going to go against their money people, Both R and D are afraid of them people.

    Use the tax for trauma care.

  7. Jules says:

    Terrance!!!

  8. Paul Kubosh says:

    Terrance,

    We are talking about Free bonds vs. paid for bonds. He has to have skin in the game for him to have any motive to change his behavior or show up to court to take responsibility for his actions. World is upside down.

  9. Jules says:

    Paul, ever had a repeat client? Ever had a client jump bail? Ever had a client commit another crime while out on bail?

  10. Manny Barrera says:

    Paul do you have any evidence that people who pay the bail, don’t go and drink and drive? Or that it is at a lower percentage?

  11. Steve Houston says:

    Paul, you’ve used the “skin in the game” argument many times in the past. Why isn’t their inevitable being caught and held accountable considered “skin in the game”, after all-most felons are eventually caught when they don’t show up on their own accord. In my limited experience, those who show up on their own get lighter sentencing and better terms from judges so there is an incentive to show up, let those who refuse to show up bear the brunt of their choice.

    And Manny has a good point, is there any credible evidence that those on cash or bonded bail commit subsequent offenses less frequently than those on a PR bond (misdemeanor or felony)? Other than the obvious “if they’re in jail, they aren’t driving” answer, I don’t see the moral high ground of claiming someone on some form of paid bail is more or less likely to continue driving while intoxicated. I’m not sure how society can prevent alcoholic’s from drinking and driving other than locking them up forever but allowing such people a bond isn’t going to make them stop.

  12. J says:

    Paul, can you please describe your relationship(s), if any, with bail bondsmen?

  13. Terrance Jewett says:

    He is a bail bondsman.

  14. Paul Kubosh says:

    Sighhhhh

    I am not a bondsman.

  15. Jules says:

    Sighhhhh

    What about your brother?

  16. Paul Kubosh says:

    Why do you ask questions everyone in the City of Houston already knows the answer to? The real question is why in the world do I comment on these insane positions you socialists take.

  17. Manny Barrera says:

    Bail bonds are socialist?

    Michael (Paul’s brother) is or was in bail bond business

    Paul is an attorney, good attorney, has an office on Lubbock.

    Socialism is an economic theory of social organization that believes that the means of making, moving, and trading wealth should be owned or controlled by the community as a whole. In Marxist theory, it is a transitional (temporary, in between) social state between capitalism and communism. I doubt anyone that has commented today believes the government should be owner of everything or control everything.

    In fact the Republicans are the ones that want to control, whom people can love, whom they can marry, what women can do with their bodies. It seems to me that the socialist are the Republicans.

  18. Paul Kubosh says:

    Kid on felony bond $1,000 for unauthorized use if a motor vehicle (aka car theft). Kid kills girlfriend. Negligent Homicide. In the old days bond would have been higher. It would have been harder to get him out. This is how it is. These instances are why I complain. Everyday in Houston.

  19. Paul Kubosh says:

    Hey Guys,

    Kid who killed his Girlfriend was out on a $1,000 P.R. bond for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle (felony).

  20. Jules says:

    Paul what is a $1,000 P.R. Bond?

    Does your brother offer bonds to people accused of felonies or only misdemeanors?

  21. Paul Kubosh says:

    Jules,

    You have been sitting here all this time commenting on Bail related issues and you don’t know what a P.R. bond is? I am pretty sure that the dead girls parents know what a P.R. Bond is and I bet you they wish this guy would have had a harder time getting out of jail. You progressives are unreal.

  22. Jules says:

    Paul,

    I googled it and it said pr is personal recognizance without bail. So I still don’t know.

    How many people have been killed by someone your brother bailed out?

  23. robert says:

    Paul, does name calling make you more right??

    Socialist, progressives….wtf??

    what do you consider yourself?

  24. Paul Kubosh says:

    Jules,

    None.

    Robert,

    Name calling? They are proud Socialist and Progressives.

  25. Jules says:

    Paul do you say none because I asked the question wrong or because almost nobody out on bond kills someone?

  26. Paul Kubosh says:

    None is still the correct answer. As to your second question you have a hero who was out on a P.r. $1,000 that killed his girlfriend. See earlier post. Maybe we should care a little more about the victims. Watch fox news tonight. guy commits multiple aggravated assaults gets P.R. Bonds. Congratulations. Just making H-town safer.

  27. Jules says:

    Paul, if his bail had been higher he would not have killed his girlfriend?

  28. Paul Kubosh says:

    If there would not have been a P.R. bond he would have been set on a different path. Family would have had to be involved to get him out. Mother, Father, Grand parents, etc. He would have needed help and normally when family gets involved and have a financial interest in getting the kid turned around you get better results.

  29. Paul Kubosh says:

    It is the P.R. bond that is the problem, not the price of the bond.

  30. Jules says:

    So a $1000 pr bond is bad but a $1000 non pr bond isn’t? I’m confused.

  31. Bill Daniels says:

    Hey Jules, here’s another no bond Kim Ogg success story:

    https://ktrh.iheart.com/content/2019-01-31-pasadena-top-cop-blasts-county-bail-policy/

    I’d say it’s just a matter of time until this new policy gets people killed, but Paul has already shown you how it HAS gotten someone killed. I hope you aren’t the next victim of this policy we will be here talking about.

    You guys make it sound like we are only letting people out with no bond for littering or other low level crime. Here’s proof that narrative is a lie.

  32. Bill Daniels says:

    Robert:

    Why do you consider the terms progressive and socialist to be name calling? Many Americans proudly wear those labels.

  33. Jules says:

    Paul does not say the person was let out on no bond. He says he was out on a $1000 pr bond, which Paul refuses to explain.

  34. Jules says:

    Ok, got it. He paid no bail but would have to pay $1000 if he misses court etc. So Paul thinks if he had to pay $1000 up front, he would not have killed anyone because his family would tell him not to. Hopefully there is no bail at all for him now.

  35. Bill Daniels says:

    Jules,

    It’s pretty simple. I get arrested and tell the judge I have no money, but I really, really need to get out of jail because I sing in the church choir and also I take care of my sick momma, plus I’m about to start college.

    A p.r. (personal recognizance) bond is just what it sounds like. Even though I have no money, I promise that I will forfeit to the court money I don’t have if I fail to appear in the future, or get arrested again while awaiting trial. See how silly that sounds? I’m claiming to not have money, but the court is just going to take my word that if I fail to stay out of trouble and appear as promised, suddenly I’ll have money to pay for that “p.r. bond.”

    The difference between a bond from a bail bondsman and a “p.r.” bond is, if I abscond or get busted for new crimes, the bail bondsman has to pay the money, but with a p.r. bond, I have to pay the money. Good luck collecting from me, a guy who claimed I had no money.

  36. Jules says:

    Bill, no, you don’t have to use a bondsman or get a pr bond. You can pay a cash bond. So keep your dumb explanations to yourself.

  37. Bill Daniels says:

    Jules,

    If I pay the bond in cash to get out, the county already HAS my money that I forfeit if I don’t do what I say I will. A p.r. bond is my agreement to pay in the FUTURE if I don’t do what I say I will.

    I don’t know how much simpler or more clear this can be. This isn’t even political disagreement. We are just talking about definitions and facts.

    Fact: I promise to pay in the future if I don’t show up or commit crimes after being released – p.r. bond.

    Fact: I have paid up front, or my bondsman has paid up front if I don’t show up or commit crimes after being released – regular bond.

    When you get a speeding ticket, you sign as a promise to appear, but there’s no bond involved. You don’t agree to pay a bond forfeiture in the future if you don’t show up to court on the ticket.

    Are you being contrarian on purpose? This isn’t controversial, we’re just talking about what these things are and are not.

  38. Jules says:

    Bill, I get it, you don’t. You never mentioned cash bond in your first stupid explanation, don’t pretend you did.

    Shut up.

  39. Paul Kubosh says:

    Jules,

    To post a Cash bond then he would need to give the County $1,000 cash. Cash bonds are for rich people and are not in the equation when you are talking about free bonds. I am really starting to think you don’t know anything about the bail system.

    I spoke to an H.P.D. officer today that told me he just arrested a person on a third D.W.I. and that he was currently on a P.R. bond for his second D.W.I. It is getting crazy.

  40. Jules says:

    Yes Paul, I get that a cash bond for $1000 is $1000 cash. Thanks for now belaboring a point that earlier you were too high and mighty to explain.

  41. Jules says:

    Is a fair bond the anount of equity meemaw has in her house? Is the system broken if granny isn’t homeless?

    Do rich people always have to pay a bond to get out of jail and never get a pr bond?

  42. Bill Daniels says:

    Jules,

    Could it be that your angst and knashing of teeth is because your liberal utopian idea is having negative real world consequences, and that disconnect is causing you to lash out? Sure seems like it.

    We were told p.r. bonds, AKA get out of jail free cards, would only be used for first time, non violent offenders.

    [Maury] Results indicate THAT was a lie. [Maury]

  43. Jules says:

    Paul, I may not know all the ins and outs of bonds, but at least I’m not a jerk that refuses to answer questions and then acts like a jerk.

    Bill, do not type my name again, my angst is from talking to you again, I am gnashing my teeth because you were gone and now you unfortunately are back. I will resume ignoring you.

  44. Jules says:

    Tbh, I’m probably a jerk.

  45. Paul Kubosh says:

    Jules from One Jerk to another…..

    Clearly Bill is right about your response to the death and destruction that is being spread by the free bond people. However, no matter how critical I may be of your positions I am most grateful for this website that allows us to trade punches. Have a good night.