Rep. Craven urges governor to sign bail bondsman bill; claims attorney general is incorrect
STATE HOUSE – Rep. Robert E. Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown) is urging Governor Raimondo to sign legislation (2017-H 5206), which he sponsored, that crafts new procedures for the forfeiture of bail by a bail bondsman.
Attorney General Peter Kilmartin recently called for the governor to veto the legislation, although Representative Craven believes the attorney general’s reading of the legislation is incorrect.
“Although I have great respect for the attorney general, his public posturing for the veto of this legislation is quite unfortunate, as this bill accomplishes two very important things. First, it will help those who must use the services of bail bondsmen – mainly the poor and those who do not have enough money or resources to post their own bail. Secondly, it saves the state significant dollars in not having to bear the expensive cost of incarcerating individuals who do not belong in jail, yet are unable to post court-ordered bail, sometimes for as little as $100,” said Representative Craven.
“It is also quite disappointing that the attorney general has resorted to fear-mongering in his letter to the governor by stating this bill will keep violent and dangerous offenders on our streets. The fact of the matter is that if a defendant is a dangerous and violent threat to our society, more than likely, bail will never be granted for that individual in the first place. This bill instead addresses individuals who are prime candidates for pre-trial diversion services, such as those with drug, alcohol or mental health issues. This is a compassionate bill that will also save the taxpayers’ money,” added Representative Craven.
“Rather than listening to the scare tactics and misinformed reading of this bill by the attorney general, I respectfully urge Governor Raimondo to let this legislation go into law, as it is very much in the spirit of the recently passed Criminal Justice Reform package,” said Representative Craven. “It will improve the state’s criminal justice system by relieving pressures from the correctional system, saving our state much-needed tax dollars, while also increasing public safety.”
Representative Craven said the bill is fair and equitable to all. It would level the playing field between those individuals who can afford to post their own bail versus those indigent or less financially secure who might not be able to post their own bail.
The bill sets the standard and ceiling of the amount of bail that a court can order a forfeiture when the bail is posted by a bondsman.
Currently, if a defendant who has used the services of a bondsman fails to appear, the bondsman is subject to a forfeiture of the entire bail, not just the posted amount. If the bondsman suffers too many forfeitures, the bondsman may not have the resources to help secure the bail and release of future indigent or poorer defendants.
“This bill, in essence, helps the small amount of bondsmen stay in business and makes them capable of helping our most financially challenged citizens to post their bail,” Representative Craven stated.
His legislation sets the time periods for a bondsman to act before any forfeiture takes place. The point of the bondsman is to ensure the appearance of the defendant at court. When the defendant doesn’t appear on the calendared day, the attorney general cannot begin bail forfeiture proceedings for 45 days. This gives the bondsman time to try to locate the defendant and secure the defendant for a court appearance. The bill does not prevent the court from issuing an arrest warrant, or for the authorities or the bondsman from beginning their search of the defendant.
Under the terms of the bill, after the hearing, the court needs to give six months to return the fugitive before any of the bail is forfeited. The court would conduct a hearing to determine if the bondsman made a good faith, diligent effort. If the court wants, it can grant additional time instead of ordering a forfeiture. However, once the forfeiture is ordered, the maximum amount the court can order forfeited is then 10 percent of the total bail.
“The bill provides that those who need to utilize the services of a bail bondsman will forfeit the same amount of money that those who post 10 percent cash would lose in the event a forfeiture becomes necessary,” Representative Craven pointed out. “The attorney general’s assertion that the bill unconstitutionally discriminates against those that don’t use the services of a bail bondsman is simply untrue. Rather, the bill allows all defendants who have been admitted to bail by the court to be released from jail even if they can’t afford to post bail simply because they are poor.”
Under the terms of the bill, the bondsmen would also be responsible for all costs incurred by the state in the locating and apprehension of the fugitive, and they would also be responsible for paying the fees and costs associated with entering the warrant into the appropriate state and federal databases.
For more information, contact:
Andrew Caruolo, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903