The High Cost of Bail in Harris County

Article: Judges leery of no cost personal bonds

The State criminal courts of Harris County, Texas have some of the most strict bond conditions in the State. According to the article linked above, Houston allows far fewer personal bonds than other large counties like Travis, Bexar, Dallas, or Tarrant County. This results in a very high cost to the jail system in Harris County. In fact, over half of the people incarcerated in the Harris County Jail are there because they couldn’t post bond. These are individuals who are presumptively innocent who simply could not afford to pay the amount of jail to get out.

This was not always the case, and it used to be common practice to hold examining trials to determine probable cause and set bonds in criminal cases in Harris county. Now, with the direct filing system utilized by the Harris County District Attorney and the Harris County District Clerk it is much easier and quicker to set a bond at a presumptive amount, depriving a defendant of his or her ability to make a plea for a personal bond.

Here’s another twist: many Harris County and District courts will only allow appointed attorneys on a case of a person who is incarcerated. That means that once a defendant posts bond, they lose their attorney and must go out and hire their own. This puts many court-appointed attorneys in an awkward conflict. Their client may be entitled to a pretrial or personal bond, but they won’t make the motion or have a hearing to reduce the bond because then they would lose the income from being appointed on the case.

The bond system works rather well in other counties that have much less strict bond restrictions than Harris County. However, Harris County refuses to set reasonable standards when considering people for personal bonds.This does not mean that you cannot get a personal or a pretrial bond after a judge or a magistrate issues a surety  (bail bondsman) bond. However, your attorney will have to make a motion under article 17.15 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. Courts may set the hearing on such a motion off for a few days, and in the meantime the defendant will be sitting in jail awaiting the court’s decision.

Texans have a right to a reasonable bond, which is only supposed ensure attendance at court dates. If you or a loved one has been arrested for a crime you need an attorney that will aggressively fight for all of your rights under the law.

Contact the Law Offices of The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp today at (713) 868-6100 for a free consultation regarding being arrested for a crime anywhere in Texas.