Bail Bondsmen Should Stop Whining
You have to give mobsters one thing. When they get caught, sent to prison and their illegal operations shut down, they don't whine that the government is taking away their livelihoods.
If only New Mexico's bail bond industry had the same class. But they don't. For as long as anyone can remember, they've been the beneficiaries of an illegal operation known as money for freedom, and predetermined bonds for certain types of crimes. Think $5,000 for a first-degree felony and so on.
But ever since the New Mexico Supreme Court, and the public, began shutting down their illegal operations, they've been whining about how the government is driving them out of business and taking spoonfuls of baby food out of the mouths of their children.
And now that a federal court judge has tossed out their lawsuit challenging the state's new bond rules, the bail bond people are screaming even louder. And screaming along with them are the usual radio talk show hosts who probably still haven't read the judge's opinion in the case.
Listen to the bail bond people and we're supposed to believe that it's the government's job to ensure that certain industries thrive and are to be profitable. Maybe saddle makers should file a lawsuit against the U.S. Army for no longer using horses for cavalry units.
In essence, U.S. District Court Judge Robert A. Junell said the Bail Bond Association of New Mexico basically didn't have standing to file the lawsuit and that the U.S. and New Mexico constitutions say that "excessive bond shall not be required" of criminal defendants.
And he said that criminal defendants in New Mexico have never had the right to monetary bonds. This sentence in his 42-page opinion sums it up:
"Criminal defendants have never been guaranteed the option of monetary bail under New Mexico law in existence before or after the 2017 rules."
That won't satisfy the bail bond people or their talk radio allies, so let's trace the history of bonds going all the way back to 1275 in England. This is from Judge Junell's opinion:
Note that in 1689, Parliament enacted a bill that prohibited excessive bail. Huh? Who would have thought?
Now let's go to the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Talk show hosts supposedly love the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, so here's what the Eighth Amendment says:
“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
That's it, 16 words!
The Eighth Amendment prohibits the federal government from imposing unduly harsh penalties on criminal defendants, either as the price for obtaining pretrial release or as punishment for crime after conviction. It doesn't say anything about bail bondsmen or their guaranteed right to make a profit.
Apparently, federal judges had lost sight of what the Constitution says about human liberty, and the Eighth Amendment, so in 1966 the U.S. Congress further clarified the process by passing the Bail Reform At of 1966. Again, from Judge Junell's opinion:
In 1972, the New Mexico State Legislature adopted the ideas in the Bail Reform Act of 1966, which, again, basically say that defendants are entitled pretrial release and that bond's can't be excessive. But over the years – and no one apparently knows how this happened – a system developed in New Mexico where there were bond schedules for certain crimes, meaning certain crimes carried a certain bond amount, say $5,000 for an auto theft. And, defendants could pay that bond to a bail bond company and get out of jail without ever seeing a judge.
That was illegal. Read the last line of this excerpt from Judge Junell's opinion:
So, judges, at the apparent suggestion of the bail bond industry, were violating the state's Constitution. I've never heard the talk show hosts bitch about that.
Judge Junell also noted in his opinion that neither the U.S. nor the New Mexico Constitutions guarantee defendants an absolute right to bail; they just forbid excessive bail.
And finally, the judge came down to the real reason the bond people filed the lawsuit. And he made it clear that it's not the government's job to protect their industry:
“The Eighth Amendment's bail clause protects the interests of criminal defendants, not corporations who seek to provide bail bonds to them.”
Here's what the bond people are so pissed about. The state's new rules did away with the schedule of monetary bonds for certain crimes, which was illegal and which no one knows how it came about. Instead, defendants have to appear before a judge, and in many, if not most cases, judges are releasing them on their own recognizance, meaning they don't have to pay money or go to a bondsman.
What more do we need to say? This case and argument has always been about the bail bond people and their ability to make money. The system they helped set up was illegal and in violation of the federal and state constitutions.
So stop whining, bond people. You made enough money through your illegal activities.