A New Law Requires Cash Bail for Those Accused of Violent Crimes in Texas
Beginning on December 2, 2021, those accused of violent crimes in Texas are barred from release from jail without first putting up a cash bail. This is the work of Senate Bill 6 (SB 6), which the governor of Texas recently signed into law. This change has the potential to keep far more of the accused – though not convicted – in jail while their cases are pending.
According to the Texas Tribune, the Texas governor signed Senate Bill 6 into law on September 13. The bill is the result of broad GOP-led legislation that requires anyone accused of a violent crime in the State of Texas to pay a cash bond in order to be released from jail. The governor declared that the need for changes to the state’s bail system had reached emergency proportions, and the Texas Legislature passed this bill in response. The bill’s name is The Damon Allen Act, which is the name of a state trooper who was slain during a traffic stop by someone who was out on a $15,500 bond after being charged with assaulting a sheriff’s deputy. The Texas governor informed a summit in Houston that he was prepared to continue calling lawmakers back for special legislative sessions until SB 6 passed. Before signing the bill, the governor pronounced that it made it more difficult for dangerous criminals to obtain release on bail from Texas jails.
What It Means
The law alters how – and even if – the accused will now be released from jail before their criminal cases are finalized (although the accused continue to remain innocent until proven guilty). While most Texas jails do require cash bail, some jurisdictions have adopted the less conservative practice of releasing those facing lesser charges on personal bonds, which does not require a cash bond but can involve restrictions, such as being required to wear a GPS ankle monitoring system or of being required to receive routine drug and/or alcohol testing.
SB 6 bans release on personal bonds for anyone who is accused of a violent crime. Additionally, anyone who is already out of jail on a cash bond for a violent criminal case will be denied cashless release if he or she is arrested for a felony in the interim. In these situations, the accused will now be required to either post the cash bail amount set by the court or to employ a bail bond company’s services. The bill also creates a new system that makes it easier for court officers to access and review a defendant’s criminal history prior to setting bail, which is slated to go into effect in January of 2022.
How Bail Bonds Work
Many people are confused by how bail bonds work, but it is a fairly straightforward process. When a person is accused of a crime and the court sets bail, the accused must either come up with the cash, which can be difficult for even those people who are not in financial straits or can turn to a bail bond service. In order to procure the services of a bail bond company, the accused must pay a specific percentage of the total bail required (often 10 percent), and with this, the bail bond company will proceed to put up the full amount of bail (in tandem with an insurance company and sometimes based on collateral of some kind). When the accused shows up for his or her court date, the total bail amount is returned to the bail bond company, which also keeps the percentage paid by the accused. If the accused does not show up for court, the collateral and/or insurance comes into play.
The Opposition Weighs In
Civil rights advocates routinely disavow bills like SB 6 on the grounds that requiring cash bonds only serves to bolster poverty-based detention and to keep the state’s jails overfilled. Opponents of the bill maintain that requiring the accused to come up with cash effectively accomplishes all of the following:
It is a means of penalizing low-income communities.
It provides for-profit bail bond companies with a financial leg up.
It limits judicial discretion and power.
None of these are considered good things. In fact, a representative for the Texas Organizing Project shared that SB 6 is built on right-wing hysteria that violates Texans’ rights, not on public safety . . . This bill will lead to more overcrowding in jails and will further criminalize poverty in our state, meaning more Texans . . . will stay stuck in jail solely because they cannot afford bail.
An Exception Made
While SB 6 easily passed the Texas Senate, it came under more scrutiny in the House until a controversial provision was removed. The provision would have restricted the ability of charitable groups to post bail for defendants. This kind of bail funding gained popularity after the riots that broke out in reaction to George Floyd’s death in 2020. Floyd was a black man who was killed by a white Minneapolis police officer, and his death sparked serious protests across the nation. In the process, many (who could not afford bail) were arrested. While this aspect of the bill was rejected, an additional measure was later added that requires the vetting of these charitable groups (by county officials) to ensure that they are actually nonprofits. Further, the charitable groups will be required to file reports regarding whom they assist in making bail.
If You Are Charged with a Crime
If you are charged with a crime of any sort, bail can play an important role. If you are unable to make bail – or to afford a bail bond service’s fees – you could find yourself cooling your heels in jail, which can jeopardize your job, your earning potential, your social standing, and more. Ultimately, having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side can be a cost-effective move that can significantly improve your ability to affect a favorable case outcome. Consulting with a dedicated criminal defense attorney early on in the process helps to ensure that your legal counsel will address the issue of bail, which is subjective. Your attorney will endeavor to keep your bail in the reasonable range – or to successfully advocate for a personal bond – which can be very difficult to accomplish without skilled legal counsel. Staying in jail even a day longer than is absolutely necessary is ill-advised – for myriad reasons – which makes having an accomplished criminal defense lawyer in your corner in your best interest.
Bail Bonds: FAQ
Being arrested is a frightening proposition, but the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions may help you make the right choices for yourself (in your unique circumstances).
What happens after I am arrested?
If you have been arrested, you’ll be taken to the appropriate jail, will be formally presented with the charges that are being levied against you, and will be booked. To be booked means that the police officer who arrested you will file an official report, which will be presented to the appropriate prosecutors – who will ultimately determine how to proceed regarding your case. The resulting official report will contain the details of your arrest – and mugshots and fingerprints will be taken and filed during the booking process. While you can look forward to being searched and interviewed by an intake officer at the facility, you should also have the opportunity to notify a friend, advocate, family member, or loved one who can come to the police station where you are held and post bail.
What role does bail play?
Once arrested, you will be informed of your release options, and bail is likely to be one of them. Bail is a specified amount of money – set by the court – that will allow you to avoid further incarceration while you await your trial date. If you are able to come up with the full amount, which can be difficult for anyone who does not keep a considerable amount of fluid assets, you can seek the services of a bail bond company. Bail is intended to incentivize showing up for your scheduled trial date. If you fail to show up, you will either lose the full amount of the bail (that you provided the court) or you will lose the amount you paid the bail bond company – in addition to any collateral you provided – and a bench warrant for your arrest will likely be issued. In other words, it is advisable to show up for your court date.
How is bail calculated?
While some lesser charges, such as misdemeanors, have set bail amounts, others are determined at bail hearings. In these instances, bail is left to the discretion of the presiding judge – who will take factors like the following into consideration:
If the person who has been accused of the crime presents a flight risk, which means that he or she has the means, motive, and opportunity not to show up for his or her trial date
If the person who has been accused of the crime presents a danger to the community.
If the person who has been accused of the crime has a lengthy and/or complicated criminal history.
From here, the presiding judge will come up with an amount for bail. It is safe to say that the process is fairly subjective, and it can be very difficult to predict how bail will be set.
What are all the jail release options?
If you are facing a criminal charge in Texas, you will either stay in jail until your court date or will meet one of the jail release options. All too often, people facing relatively minor charges languish in jail because they have no other financial options, which is generally considered a problem that is systemic to criminal justice. The jail release options – once bail is set – include:
Cash Bail – Cash bail requires you to pay the full amount of the set bail. This is an uncommon option – except for relatively minor charges, such as misdemeanors – because most people do not keep their assets liquid and do not have access to considerable amounts of cash.
Surety Bond – if you go through a bail bond service, it is a surety bond that you obtain. Because many people who face bail cannot afford to make the payments upfront, they turn to third-party lenders that provide bail bond services, which are backed by insurance providers in the event that a person facing charges does not show up for his or her trial date. The percentage paid by the person seeking bail, which is typically 10 percent, is the bail bond service’s payment.
Personal Bond – Personal bond, which is also called being released on one’s own recognizance, refers to a bond that does not require cash. With a personal bond, the court does not require bail and accepts the person’s word that he or she will show up for his or her court date. Part of this personal recognizance or personal bond can include wearing a GPS ankle bracelet or submitting to regular drug and/or alcohol testing.
By taking personal bonds off the table for many, Texas is cutting bond options down to either paying cash or paying a bail bond service – both of which may be too expensive for a significant number of those facing criminal charges.
Reach out to an Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Attorney for the Legal Counsel You Need
Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a criminal defense attorney whose practice focuses on zealously defending the rights of those facing criminal charges – in dedicated pursuit of favorable case outcomes. Mr. Pritchard is on your side and here to help, so please do not delay contacting us online or calling us at 254-501-4040 for more information today.