HOUSTON – The Harris County Bail Bonds Board voted Wednesday afternoon to require a 10% minimum bond requirement for felony crimes.
Six of the board members voted in favor of the proposed ordinance, three abstained, and two voted in opposition.
Attorney Troy McKinney and Mario Garza, the president of the bail bondsmen association, were the two that opposed the ordinance but were in favor of a failed motion to require a 100% minimum. Garza told KPRC2 he didn’t believe the 10% minimum requirement would work or deter crime.
Several families of victims whose suspected killers are currently out on bond called for more transparency in the bonding industry when it comes to payments, shared their emotional testimonies at the meeting and rejoiced when the board voted in favor of the 10% bond minimum.
The bail bond industry has been under scrutiny for allowing some defendants with repeat and violent offenses to post less than 3% of their bail, some with payment plans, to bond out of jail.
There’s no word on when the ordinance will go into effect.
Garza said he’s going to explore legal options on behalf of bail bond companies to see if this ordinance is enforceable.
The board also voted in favor of having the county attorney seek the attorney general’s opinion on the board’s authority to regulate the terms whether agreements entered into by bonding companies in Harris County.
The board voted against a third proposal, which would have the attorney the county attorney get the attorney general’s opinion on the board’s authority to enact a local rule requiting bail bond companies to collect a minimum percentage of bail before posting a surety bond.
Mayor Sylvester Turner released the following statement on the Bail Bond Board decision:
“This afternoon, I am pleased the Harris County Bail Bond Board approved a proposal to require bonding companies to collect a minimum of 10 percent of bail set by judges for suspects before they are released on bond. The City of Houston’s representative on the board asked for this item to be placed back on the agenda after it failed to receive enough votes last month.
On February 2nd, I announced the One Safe Houston plan – a comprehensive initiative that holistically addresses crime prevention. Part of that plan called for bond reform, specifically to make the 10% down payment a requirement on bail bond premiums.
In March, I wrote a letter to the Harris County Bail Bond Board urging members to adopt this policy.
I’m very gratified to see the Harris County Bail Bond Board adopt this policy today. When judges set high bonds for violent offenses, bail bond companies should not waive or reduce premiums, thus jeopardizing public safety.
I’m grateful to the advocates, victim families especially, who pushed for this reform, including many elected officials.
Earlier today, the Houston city council considered a similar ordinance, and the vote was delayed until next week, pending the Board’s vote. With today’s vote by the Harris County Bail Bond Board, it will be unnecessary for the City to move forward.”
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo tweeted the following statement:
I’m heartened a majority of Bail Bond Board members joined me in voting for a 10% bond requirement to end “cheap bail” for serious crimes. It’s one step of many we’re taking to tackle the gun violence epidemic. Grateful to so many families of victims who pushed for this.— Lina Hidalgo (@LinaHidalgoTX) April 13, 2022