Marty eJournal column pixby Marty Hayes, J.D.

In my column last month I asked members if the Network should offer a bail assistance program of some type. The question came about because we reached a goal of $500,000 in the Legal Defense Fund, so in my May column, I asked members if helping pay bail was a reasonable use of the Legal Defense Fund or if the Fund should be reserved exclusively for legal defense and thus allowed to grow larger and larger with new and renewing membership. I appreciate the time 62 Network members took to respond to my question. Many people just voted yes or no, while many others took the time to write out their thoughts.

The result of my non-scientific poll is that a majority of the members would like the Legal Defense Fund used to create a bail assistance program in one form or another. In fact, 88% of the responding members wanted the addition of bail assistance, with only 12% stating a clear preference to simply keep growing the fund. So, with this in mind, I will be looking at all the options available through which the Network could help with bail, and Vincent, Gila and I will start putting together a plan to add bail assistance. Let me explain the issues and why I am not sure at this time what would be the best form of that assistance.

Should the Network post a cash bond for the member, or should we pay bail money to a bondsman to get the member released? A bail assistance feature could be implemented either way, but both entail different downsides. If the Network posts a cash bond for the member, then we pay all the money the judge requires as bail, and when the member goes to trial, the Network gets all the money back. If we did this, we would not have to pay a bondsman’s fees nor should there be any other costs involved, but we risk the money if a member doesn’t show up for court. If the bond was set at $1 million, we would not be able to pay the entire cash bond, so that is a problem, too.

If we pay a bondsman to pay the bail, there is no danger that the Network will lose the money, but we will pay a 10% fee to the bondsman for risking his money. That is typically the way things work in the real world, but being an individual who likes to think outside the box, I will be looking at non-traditional ways to work with bail agents. I am very guarded about risking ANY of the $500,000 currently in the Legal Defense Fund on bail, so any assistance would be drawn out of the Fund allocation from future dues, not monies already in the Legal Defense Fund.

I also want the size of the Legal Defense Fund to keep increasing. At this time, I do not think we should divert any of the dues money earmarked for the Legal Defense Fund into a bail fund; the 25% of all dues that comprise the Fund will be banked in the Fund, as they always have been. We will continue to grow the Legal Defense Fund.

I do not expect there would be many requests for bail assistance, as we have had only one request in eight years and eleven cases, but one never knows. Until we develop a formal policy, we will NOT announce or advertise any bail assistance member benefit as an inducement to join the Network.

I have heard your voices. I want to help members needing bail assistance if I can. I think the membership can expect to see a formal policy in place by the end of the year. Again, thank you for your thoughts on this subject; it is great to see feedback from the membership.

Why I Dislike “Insurance Schemes:” The Martin Zale Case

Recently, I came across a court case where the defendant was being tried for murder after what he claimed was a self-defense incident. You can find out about the case by Googling “Martin Zale Trial.” I found the case a very good representation of one of those “grey area” self-defense cases, much like the George Zimmerman case.

Unfortunately for Mr. Zale, I don’t believe he had the resources to mount a full legal defense, despite being a subscriber to one of the popular “self-defense insurance schemes.” As I believe the facts to be, he was a member of an organization that offers self-defense insurance as a reimbursable benefit, but does not supply money to fight the court battle.

In my looking at the case from afar, it appears that he could have used a defense expert to explain the disparity of force issue, along with forensic experts and perhaps a pathologist who could have nailed down the distance the deceased was from Mr. Zale. And, the fact that he had set up a Legal Defense Fund and was asking for donations at the website indicates that my supposition is likely correct.

Frankly, this case sickens me, as these insurance schemes sell on the fear of going to prison, and most people do not read the fine print of the policy until it is too late.

This month’s column will be, by necessity, a short one, as I am working on several other projects and a new self-defense case, to which I must get back.

Click here to return to June 2015 Journal to read more.