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.