Dec 29, 2015

San Francisco and California bail system unconstitutional?

The same AP article in the link above was reprinted in several media outlets.


Crystal Patterson didn't have the cash or assets to post $150,000 bail and get out of jail after her arrest for assault in October.

So Patterson, 39, promised to pay a bail bonds company $15,000 plus interest to put up the $150,000 bail for her, allowing to go home and care for her invalid grandmother.

The day after her release, the district attorney decided not to pursue charges. But Patterson still owes the bail bonds company. Criminal justice reformers and lawyers at a nonprofit Washington D.C. legal clinic say that is unconstitutionally unfair.

The lawyers have filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of Patterson, Rianna Buffin and other jail inmates who argue that San Francisco and California's bail system unconstitutionally treats poor and wealthy suspects differently.

I spoke with a couple bail bond companies. One person said that "it will bankrupt the cities and the County. This does not work. It was tried in Philadelphia and it cost them to be bankrupt to the tune of one billion."

Links to Philadelphia bail reform:

Philadelphia : A Case Study of Public Policy Disaster  
About 40 years ago, Philadelphia assumed exclusive control over the city’s bail system by abolishing private bail services and implementing its own pretrial release service. The typical Philadelphia defendant is required to deposit only 10 percent of his total bail assigned by the judge and sign a statement agreeing that he will owe the remaining 90 percent for failure to appear on the court date.[2] According to a recent investigation by The Philadelphia Inquirer
For decades, Philadelphia court officials have presided over an ineffective bail system that allowed accused criminals to skip court virtually without consequence. Defendants routinely failed to appear in court and just as routinely, failed to pay the forfeited bail that was supposed to come due as a result.[3] 
Further, Philadelphia court officials admitted that no one made any effort to collect the money owed the city by those who had skipped their court dates.[4]  
What is the result of the city’s pretrial release services? Today, fugitive defendants owe the city more than $1 billion for failing to appear for their trials.[5] Further, there are more than 47,000 defendants wanted on bench warrants for failing to appear for trial.[6] 
The Private Sector Does it Better (Again)  
Private bail bond insurers provide important services to defendants and society at no cost to taxpayers. In exchange for a fee, private bond agents secure the release of defendants from jail while the accused await trail. Compared to other types of pretrial release, research indicates that private bond agents are more effective at ensuring defendants make their court appearances.[7] Individuals who obtain their release through private bond agents are 28 percent less likely to fail to appear before court than when freed on their own recognizance.[8] When defendants fail to appear before the courts and remain at large for more than a year, private bond agents seem to be more effective at catching these fugitives than public law enforcement. Those released through the assistance of private bond agents have a fugitive rate that is 53 percent lower than the fugitive rates of those released on their own recognizance.[9] 


  1. Income-based fines could introduce fairness to a legal system that many have shown to be biased against the poor.

    "Finland’s system for calculating fines is relatively simple: It starts with an
    estimate of the amount of spending money a Finn has for one day, and then divides that by two—the resulting number is considered a reasonable amount of spending money to deprive the offender of. Then, based on the severity of the crime, the system has rules for how many days the offender must go without that money. Going about 15 mph over the speed limit gets you a multiplier of 12 days, and going 25 mph over carries a 22-day multiplier.

    Most reckless drivers pay between €30 and €50 per day, for a total of about €400 or €500. Finland’s maximum multiplier is 120 days, but there's no ceiling on the fines themselves—the fine is taken as a constant proportion of income whether you make €80,000 a year or €800,000.

  2. If the court releases a defendant on OR, and he doesnt show, who pays? You the taxpayer. If a defendant has to bail out, and doesnt show, who pays? The bail bond company. At no cost to the taxpayer. I am a bondsman, and if a defendant doesnt show up, I could lose my house.

  3. one more thing to add. It doesnt matter if you are rich or poor, bailbondsman treat everyone equally. It is understood that once you sign the contract to bail out, you have to pay. in the case of ms. patterson, she had only 1 more day to wait and she could of saved 15,000. who was taking of her grandmother for the couple of days she was in jail.