Marty eJournal column pixNetwork Adds Bail Assistance to Membership Benefits

by Marty Hayes, J.D.

“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

The above sentence is the 8th Amendment to the US Constitution and part of our Bill of Rights. As our members know, we here at the Network home office have been studying whether or not the Network should offer our members a “bail assistance benefit” as part of our overall member benefits package. So, after a considerable amount of research, this message will serve as notice to our members of the addition of a member benefit of bail assistance of up to $25,000.

Before we lay out the details of the bail assistance member benefit, a little education is in order.

Bail is typically required by the courts to insure that the person arrested appears in court. It is believed that if a person puts down enough money or other collateral, they will not flee the jurisdiction of the court, but instead come to court and go to trial. Additionally, each state’s courts handle the issue of bail differently, so there is no hard and fast rule to cover the entire country. For example in the Larry Hickey case, (see http://armedcitizensnetwork.org/images/stories/Hickey%20Booklet.pdf) the court imposed a “cash bail” where the judge set the bail at $100,000 and required Larry come up with all of it in cash. That is something that can be done in Arizona and other states, as well. In some states, bail is not available for a first degree murder charge, so the arrestee sits in jail until trial. Consequently, if it were me, I would make sure that I understand how my local jurisdiction handles the bail issue.

As far as the mechanics of arranging bail after being arrested, once a person is arrested and transported to jail, they will be given the opportunity to contact a bail agent to arrange for bail. Only if the person was arrested for a misdemeanor and the bail is a low amount, will the person likely be able to post bail immediately (before being booked). For any felony, expect that you will be booked into jail (belongings taken, jail uniform issued, mug shots, fingerprints and perhaps even DNA swabs taken). Then you will be given the opportunity to contact a lawyer. For a serious felony (likely including any self-defense case for which you were arrested), do not expect bail to be set immediately.

There will be an arraignment where your attorney requests bail, while arguing for a low amount of bail, with the prosecutor arguing for a high bail. There are exceptions, of course. One exception might be if you are a fine, upstanding member of the community with a good job and a family to support. In that case, you might be released on your own recognizance, if the judge does not believe you are a flight risk. But that rarely happens, so you need to be ready to arrange for bail.

For purposes of this discussion, let’s say you were arrested for aggravated assault (as was Larry Hickey) and the judge sets a bail amount of $100,000. At that point, you have two choices. If you have $100,000 lying around (or could raise the money with help from friends or family), you could simply arrange for that money to be deposited to the court and you would be released. No bail agent would be involved in the transaction, and you would have that money returned to you (less court costs and/or fines) after trial.

If you could not put your hands on the $100k, then you likely would need to hire a bail agent to post a bond for you. The bail agent has already worked out the details with the court, to be able to go to the court and promise that they would either make sure you appeared in court at each and every hearing and trial, or if you fail to appear, they would pay the court $100,000. The bail bond agent does not bring a hundred grand in cash to the court, but instead promises to pay that amount if you don’t show up for trial.

For that service, they are going to charge you a fee, typically 10% of the bail amount. In our example of bail set at $100,000, that fee would be $10,000. This $10,000 paid to the bail agent is not refundable, it is their fee for risking their $100,000. But understand that it is not this simple, so PAY ATTENTION HERE…

In addition to the $10,000 fee, the bail bond agent could also require collateral for the remaining $90,000. This collateral is typically in the form of a mortgage on your house, or on the house of a third party (like parents or other family). So, just because you can raise the $10,000, that does not mean you will be released from jail pending trial. This is an extremely important fact that I don’t want you to miss, and here’s why:

Effective Oct. 1, 2015, the Network leadership has decided to add a bail assistance member benefit, meaning that if a Network member is arrested after an act of self defense, we will assist the member in arranging for bail. We have decided to make up to $25,000 available from the Legal Defense Fund to pay the bail agent’s fee, but the member may still need to provide the collateral to secure the rest of the bail amount. Using our $100,000 example, the Network will pay the $10,000 fee to the bail agent, but the member may still need to pledge $90,000 in collateral. That is how the bail bond system works, and as we announce this member benefit, we wanted members to have a crystal clear understanding of how this works.

In addition, there is one more aspect of this new member benefit that we want you to understand:

Granting bail assistance is subject to the same requirement as awarding Legal Defense Funds beyond the initial deposit against fees paid immediately to your attorney. In other words, there must be sufficient evidence to make a reasonable argument that the use of force incident was self defense. Just as we would not agree to fund the legal defense of someone who actually committed a murder, we would also not assist that person in gaining his or her freedom from jail. We will need to be convinced that your use of force was a self-defense incident.

Having said that, we are very excited to be able to offer this benefit to our members and to armed citizens for whom a bail assistance benefit is a make-break factor in deciding which post-incident support plan to join. We have struggled to figure out how to add this benefit without depleting the core member benefit of paying an attorney for immediate representation for the member after self defense as well as assistance with attorney, expert witness and other trial expenses, if it goes that far. Prior to making this decision, the feedback we received from members was that they felt those benefits were less valuable to them if they were stuck sitting in jail because they could not make bail.

Given the incredible variations on how bail is handled from one state to the next, we realized bail assistance may require a degree of financial participation from the member himself or herself. Members must understand that assistance with posting bail may not meet in full the requirements of the bail bonding agent, and in all likelihood will require financial participation from the member, as well. Bail assistance is a lot more complex than a check mark on the comparison grids advertising so many of the Network’s competitors.

Despite this complexity, we work hard to be responsive to Network member requests and feedback. Dedicated journal readers will remember that I began exploring the question of adding a bail assistance member benefit to Network membership benefits back in the May and June issues of this journal. During discussion, I received a lot of feedback from members, the great majority of whom indicated that adding a reasonable program to provide bail assistance to Network members was of utmost importance to them. That’s why I’m so pleased to make this announcement that the Network has added bail assistance to Network membership benefits.

____
For further research, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bail_bondsman


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