Louisiana’s Bail Bond Industry and the Court System’s Fee Based Conundrum
With bail reform becoming part of a larger national conversation, Louisiana should also consider its practices and overuse of cash bail. While the bail bond system was established to ensure individuals showed up for court, the bond amounts and associated fees are more likely to keep individuals in jail while awaiting trial based strictly on their inability to pay rather than the risk they pose to society. One of the associated fees stems from legislation passed in Louisiana some years ago that set a “premium” for bail bonds at 12 percent of the total bail amount ordered by a judge. At this rate, on an average bail amount of $10,000, someone must pay $1,200 to a bondsman to put up their bail. While 10% is paid to the bail bond company, the remaining 2% of the “license fee” is divvied up among parish courts, district attorneys, sheriffs and public defenders as provided in the statute. However, in Orleans, at the urging of the Orleans Parish Criminal Court District Judges (a group that benefits statutorily from bond fees), an increase from 2% to 3% in license fees for bail bondsmen was passed by the Legislature, just for Orleans Parish. Concerns have been raised that based on the nature of the economy, the cost increase will be passed onto the consumer, making it more difficult for low-income defendants to be able to afford bail.
The conundrum of how to reform bail in Louisiana can be summed up best as a “riddle wrapped in mystery inside an enigma”. That phrase never meant much to me until I started digging into current bonding system in Louisiana Right on Crime in Louisiana definitely has bail bond reform, along with court funding issues, on our radar.