But does the latter really guarantee that an offender will show up to court to face the consequences?
Not according to owner of Patriot Bail Bonds in Bakersfield, Amanda Esposito, who feels that if a crime is committed big or small, people must be held accountable.
“There has to be accountability or financial compensation to the public when an alleged crime is committed, and bail bonds companies insure defendants will attend court and appear before a judge,” she said. “If they don’t, we compensate the court, which is win for the court and for the tax payers.”
In Kern County, the bail amount for a first-time DUI arrest is currently set at $5,000. But according to Lieutenant Bobby Voth of the Kern County Sheriff’s Office Virtual Jail Section, that amount could increase to as much as $10,000, once all the applicable Penal Codes are added in.
“This is derived from the bail schedule set forth by our courts,” Voth said. “However, most offenders are held for around 12 hours, then cited and released with a promise to appear.”
Kern County Supervising Deputy District Attorney Michael J. Yraceburn concurred with Voth, and said that even though there is a set bail amount for first-time DUI in place, it is the province of the sheriff to determine if they will cite and release a person after they are booked.
The reasons for releasing a majority these offenders on their own merit are simple, and can be attributed to the Federal Government’s prison population management mandate, better known as Proposition 47, which was passed by voters in the state of California on November 4, 2014.
“The decision to cite and release is largely due to jail management and the severity of the offense also plays a large role in that,” Voth said.
“DUI’s, although very serious, are not crimes of violence, and we simply do not have the space to keep misdemeanors of that level, unfortunately.”
But do those that are released without bail more prone to fail to appear when it comes time to go to court?
Voth said no, but Yraceburn is not so sure.
And while the DA’s data system is not defined enough to determine failures to appear (FTA) after a DUI arrest, it does show that for the first half of 2015, that FTA’s were running about 62 percent, which Yraceburn said was up 16 percent from 2014.
“This increase was, in our opinion is a result of Prop 47, and the changes in bail for those new lesser misdemeanors,” he said.
Esposito said she has also seen a “revolving door” effect at the jail since the sheriff’s decision to release a majority of those misdemeanor defendants without bail.
“Since the decriminalization of drug possession and misdemeanors like firs time DUI’s by law enforcement, we have seen FTA rates go through the roof,” she said. “Almost a 20 percent increase in failure to appears from one year to the next.”
That type of rise in FTA’s is why some jurisdictions, such as San Diego County, are enforcing first-time misdemeanor DUI case bail requirements, by requiring any person arrested for a first-time DUI to post a $2,500 bail in order to be released.
Yraceburn said he agrees with that approach.
“The only sure way for an individual to appear is to have the defendant in-custody, but that is not practical,” he said. “So, having a financial incentive would be the next best thing.”
Having a stake in appearing — a loss of premium, a threat of jail or strikes are all possibilities for offenders who do not show up to court when they are required. Yet, there are those that still make the choice not to appear before a judge.
“Simply giving them a piece of paper and “hoping” they will show up is not realistic,” Yraceburn said. “A meth addict, whose only thought is to worry about where they are going to buy their next hit, does not care about the piece of paper that tells them they need to be in court in 30 days.”
So, while it is agreed upon by law enforcement and bail bonds companies that posting bail would likely ensure that more defendants would appear in court, the bail bonds system has still recently come under fire by special interest groups, who think that it’s unconstitutional that some people have to stay in jail because they can’t afford bail — something Esposito said is just not true.
“With affordable payment plans and zero interest on balances, a $5,000 bond can be done with as little as $100 deposit and a few payments of $50,” she said.
A small and reasonable cost it would seem to ensure accountability, and recidivism.
“Lots of these folks will re-offend, especially DUI offenders,” Esposito said. “But you can bet we will make sure they are in court and the likelihood of them re-offending is cut down dramatically because they have been held accountable.”
By Matt Martz
License Number: 1845362