Saturday, January 16, 2016

Getting High: Bail in Brazos County, TX

If you are arrested on a misdemeanor in Brazos County Texas, you will have a bail amount set that will be too high. The reasons are in the inefficiency of the current system used in our county. These inefficiencies result in inflated bail amounts, ultimately wasting county resources.

I will go further: If the information I am receiving is correct, these bail amounts may also jeopardize some misdemeanor prosecutions.

Bail is not a sexy topic, but it is a fundamental one. Misdemeanors include Class A and B crimes, most often Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), Possession of Marijuana (POM), Assault and Assault-Family Violence. If you are arrested in Brazos County for POM-Class B (Less than 2 oz) expect a minimum bail amount of $2000. If you have an out of town address, not unusual as this is a college town, the bail set will be $3000. If the offense is a Class A Assault or Assault Family Violence, the bail will be $4000. The same offense, with an out of town address? $5000.  

I wish I could provide a link to the bail schedule for Brazos County. I cannot. There is no published bond schedule I can find for Brazos County. I only know of the bail amounts set above anecdotally. If there is a schedule, I would love have one of our local Justice of the Peace let me know where it can be found. There seems to be some schedule, but access is akin to a secret fraternity handshake: It is only known only to the 4 judges in the brotherhood known as Brazos County Justices of the Peace.

But I digress. Compare these misdemeanor bail amounts in Brazos County to those in Harris County (Houston). These schedules are published on the Harris County District Clerk website
 Class: B, Standard Offense
1st Offense $500
2nd Offense $500, plus $500 for each prior misdemeanor conviction
plus $1,000 for each prior felony conviction
Not to exceed $5,000
Class: A, Standard Offense
 1st Offense $1,000
 2nd Offense $1,000, plus $500 for each prior misdemeanor
$1,000 plus $1,000 for each prior felony
not to exceed $5,000
Class: Family Violence or Threat of Violence
 1st Offense $1,500
 2nd Offense Plus $2,000 for each prior conviction for a
violent offense or threat of violence
Class: DWI
 First Offense $500
 Subsequent Offense $2,500 plus $1,000 for each prior conviction
not to exceed $5,000
Class: Any offense committed while on bond,
community supervision, intervention, or
Class: Any motion to adjudicate or revoke
community supervision. $5,000
This means if a TAMU student with a Houston address is arrested in Brazos County for POM less than 2 oz, their base bail amount is $3000. In contrast, in Harris County if someone with a College Station address is arrested for the same POM offense, their bail would be $500 (Of course, this person in Harris County would never be arrested in the first place, as they would be cited, released and qualify a pre-trial diversion program, but that is another topic already vented upon).

This makes no sense. An arrestee in Brazos County is receiving a bail amount up to 6 times the amount they would receive if arrested an hour's drive south in Houston.

It makes less sense when thinking it through. Remember what a bail is supposed to accomplish: Provide security to ensure later appearance by the arrestee for court proceedings. These TAMU students are invested in society, and always show up for court. Sticking them with $3000 in bail penalizes them for a offense not proven, makes it less likely that they will post a cash bond that they will get back at the end of the case, and increases the possibility they will seek a tax payer provided court appointed lawyer.

My next post will detail the process of setting bail in Brazos County, the inefficiencies involved, and thoughts on reform.

At some point, DWI bonds amounts will also be discussed.   

1 comment:

  1. I agree that reform is definitely needed. It's incredibly unfair to pose those types of bail amounts on college students for such misdemeanor crimes. Also since I am taxpayer, I would rather see the money go back into assisting with anger management, drug problems, and AA. By just locking people up we are not helping the underlying problems that may have led to the legal infraction.