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Smith County bond policy change seeks to keep bail bond companies accountable

Under the new Bond Forfeiture Policy, initial settlement rates increase by 50 percent
Updated: Feb. 6, 2019 at 6:53 PM CST
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TYLER, TX (KLTV) - In Smith County, a policy change has increased the amount of money that bail bond companies owe if a defendant doesn’t show up for trial. District Attorney Jacob Putman put the policy in place when he took office in January.

When a person out on bond doesn’t show up for their court date, a bail bonds company has three options: find the person, pay the court the full bond amount, or settle and walk away.

"We want to give the bondsman a financial incentive to go find their people,” says Putman.

The updated Smith County bond policy says the bail bond company can pay the county 60 percent of the bond amount within the first 60 days their client misses court. In the past, bail bond companies could settle for just 10 percent of the bond.

“Most bail bond companies were bonding people out and charging them 10 percent,” says Putman. “If we only charge them 10 percent, they don’t have a reason to go get them because they are not out any money."

Malcom Jackson, a local bail bondsman says there are some issues with the policy as it stands. "It’s still a work in progress,” says Jackson. “That’s why we just had a meeting with the DA to see what we need to do and how we need to do it, make it fair.”

Jackson is worried about its impact on business and the Smith County Jail.

"People will be in jail more for their small misdemeanors which will back up the jail and eventually cost the taxpayers money,” says Jackson.

However, Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith says the policy change will save taxpayers money in the long term.

"I think it's a positive for the county,” says Smith. "Compare having more people that we feed and house and do medical for in the jail to a jury sitting in a jury box over with a judge ready to go. That's a bad feeling when you have everybody there ready to go to court and the defendant doesn't show up."

Putman said the settlement rates are negotiable if a bonds company can prove they are looking for their client.

Bail bonds companies have asked for that to be included in the written policy, at this time it is not.

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