Pay Your Money and Don’t Run

The North Carolina state legislature is currently considering what might be viewed as a “sit and wait” bill. Right now, counties are allowed to run their own pre-trial release programs. This means each county decides if it wants to use its own resources to research the backgrounds and activities of an accused person and make recommendations on whether the person can be released until trial, assigned a bail amount, or denied bail. Senate Bill 756 would prevent these programs from researching the accused for the first 48 hours.

Bail bondsmen are the primary supporters of this bill. It is a fight against what they see as government competition hurting their business. According to Mark Black, one of the lobbyists for the bill, “They’re in direct competition with us. They’re getting folks out who are bondable.”

Critics of the bill are concerned about the cost to taxpayers, as well as the undue hardships that may be placed on the accused. Instead of being reviewed for pre-trial release, a person with a job, strong community ties, and no risk of flight will be held for 48 hours before bail is set- costing the state money those 2 days, plus every day that he is not able to post bail.

Both systems- bail bondsmen and jurisdictional pre-trial release programs- claim to save the taxpayers money while helping the accused before trial. Both systems claim to provide a public service by monitoring the accused prior to trial.

If this bill is passed, North Carolina will see whether pre-trial management of the accused is handled better by court systems or by private industry.

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