Repeat offenders not showing up for court dates after posting bond

By Phil Archer - Reporter

HOUSTON - A lot of people applauded a federal judge’s order to reform Harris County’s bail bond system last May. 

But police are complaining that the fix has created a crisis that has made the county’s misdemeanor courts a revolving door.

Dale Franklin is back in jail after his 34th arrest.

Last week, he was picked up for shoplifting. At the time, he was already free on bond in two other cases. 
 
He’s one of thousands of misdemeanor suspects who have been released on unsecured bonds since federal Judge Lee Rosenthal’s ruling last May.

The order essentially requires that misdemeanor suspects be released within 24 hours of arrest, whether they can pay bail or not, even if they have pending cases. So, most are given unsecured bonds.

Statistics recently compiled by the district clerk's office show a large number of the suspects simply don’t bother to show up for court. 

Since last June, over 8,000 unsecured bonds have been granted, but 3,500 of them were forfeited.

That's a forfeit rate of about 43 percent.

Police union president Ray Hunt said the use of unsecured bonds has made the court a revolving door that puts repeat offenders back on the street overnight.

"If it’s his first time to ever be arrested of that, of course, give him a second chance. Let him go out if he can’t afford to pay it, but not somebody who has 10, 15 or, in Mr. Franklin’s case, 34 times. How many times are we going to allow them to keep coming in there and get out?” Hunt said.

In October, KPRC2 investigator Robert Arnold was told county attorneys were planning to ask Rosenthal to amend her order to allow locking up bond offenders.

But at this point, the county attorney’s office can’t say when a motion might be filed. 

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