Financial Freedom: Bond Lessons from Waco

On May 17, 2015 a tragic and inexcusable incident occurred outside a Twin-Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas which left nine people dead.  This particular Twin-Peaks had a history of catering to the "biker" culture.  True to form a biker rally was planned for May 17.  Several biker clubs/gangs were set to convene on the Twin-Peaks location.  It's not clear exactly what sparked the violence, however, shots were fired by both bikers and police which ended in nine dead and at least 170 bikers in jail.  Each had their bond set a one million dollars (1,000,000.00) which brings me to the substance of this article. 

Bonds are intended to secure the presence of an accused person in future court proceedings.  They are meant to be set in an amount sufficient to both secure the defendant's presence in court (i.e. the defendant will appear so the bond money is not forfeited to the Court) and protect the public (i.e. the bond is not set so low that truly bad people can easily free themselves from custody and do more harm to the public).  In some instances, bonds can be denied all-together.  Generally, however, defendant's are entitled to a reasonable bond that is not oppressive or punitive.  Again, the idea is just to secure the defendant's future presence in Court.  

In this case, if the justification for the one million dollar bond is that these are all truly bad people, then the bonds should be denied in total.  However, handing out $1,000,000.00 bonds in a blanket fashion is an injustice to those who just happened to be present at the wrong time.  Applying a small amount of logic and common sense will lead to the conclusion that at least some of of the 170 people had no involvement with criminal activity whatsoever.  In other words, some of these people are INNOCENT.  Still, their bond has been set at one million dollars and they will remain in jail until they can either post the bond themselves, have a bondman post surety on their behalf, or have the bond lowered by the courts.  

Bondsmen generally charge 10% of the stated bond amount.  Meaning each defendant would have to pay a bondsman one $100,000.00 before securing their freedom.  This is money they will NOT get back even if their case is later dismissed or they are acquitted by a jury.  How many of us really have a spare hundred grand lying around for bond money?  How many even have a spare $1,000.00? 

The reality is that these people, some of whom are innocent, could sit in jail for months before the Courts work through their cases.  Each will likely lose their job, car, motorcycle, apartment or even their house while waiting for the process to complete.

Truthfully, we hold people in jail daily who likely shouldn't be there, but if they don't have the bond money, they will stay in jail.  Many who are indigent, are in the same boat.  Their 10,000.00 bond might as well be one million.  

This is just another example of how those with financial wealth have an advantage in the legal system.  At least as far as pre-conviction, if you have the money, you get your freedom.  If you don't, you're stuck.  

This is why you should not deal with the state alone.  You should seek the help of a competent attorney who will fight for you.  No attorney can guarantee that they can get your bond reduced or secure your freedom with personal recognizance.  However, an attorney can ensure that you get before the Court, that the Court hears your side and that you are portrayed in the best light possible.  Innocent people go to jail everyday.  Often for just being in the wrong place and the wrong time.  If this happens to you, don't sit and wait.  Call for help.