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Bipartisan bill to let bail bondsmen go even more footloose
By John Sanford Friedrich
Justin Burr (R-67 Stanly) has cemented his reputation for being a bit precocious – a twentysomething with the audacity to challenge Tim Moore (R-111 Cleveland) for the speakership last year following the departure of Tillis to the federal Senate. Needless to say he lost and was threatened with punishment for such out-of-turn ambition.
Burr however is not a seedling but a scion. One of his legislative achievements as reported by RestoreNC was to raise the cap on bail from $10,000 to a tenfold increase of $100,000. Coincidentally his family is in the bail business (as well as real estate, either line of work not relying on much labor or deferred gratification). In a further coincidence, Rep. Burr’s father was elected president of the N.C. Bail Agents Association following his son’s successful passage of that bill, HB137.
Tides turn and the state is large. Enter two primary sponsors of this year’s HB641. Both of the two primary sponsors entered the office as appointees rather than electoral victors though both are members of opposing parties, Jason Saine (R-97 Lincoln) and Robert Reives II (D-57 Chatham). Reives is a noted opponent of poorly regulated fracking.
The main novelty of the bill is to allow “other agencies” than the N.C. Bail Agents Association to educate and certify bondsmen. This could have either positive or negative outcomes – on the one hand self-sustaining cartels like the Bail Agents are inherently dangerous even according to the primordial economist Adam Smith. On the other, a “Bail Academy” would only serve to increase the number of bondsmen idling about our communities waiting for someone to be arrested, pocket their money and then to subsequently hunt them down.
Bail agents are allowed to destroy property and hound those who may have put up bail money for a relative. There is little sympathy in America for the unfortunate, much less for “fugitives” but it should be noted that bail is offered at a judge’s discretion to those accused of a crime and wishing to have liberty as they await trial.
In a piece for Governing Magazine, Russel Nichols noted that bail agents are not the only system to permit the accused to leave imprisonment pending trial. “As an alternative to the commercial bail industry, local and state governments for the past 50 years have developed pretrial services programs that identify low-risk defendants and allow them to remain in the community before a trial. Advocates say these programs help manage overcrowding in jails without punishing the poor. However, in the face of steep deficits and an increasingly strong bail industry, the future for these programs is uncertain.”
As of April 27 the bill’s future is similarly uncertain.