Oregon: A Lawless Waste of Fugitive Malefactors. Well, not really.

Here’s John Oliver, one of my favorite mockers-of-social-folly, taking the wind out of the Bail Bond system in the USA:

He mentioned that Oregon has a different landscape to play on, and redditor /u/ThisDerpForSale elaborated on that a bit – I thought it was worth sharing.

John Oliver makes a reference to Oregon doing things differently. I’ll expand on that a little bit.

Oregon is one of only four states that has no commercial bail bondsmen. We did away with them in the 70’s, and a 1978 Oregon Supreme Court decision actually held that bounty hunting is considered kidnapping under Oregon law. So, we’re now a lawless wasteland of fugitives running amok, right? Hardly.

In fact, very few people are held in custody pending trial. The vast majority – charged with minor misdemeanors (shoplifting, graffiti, public drunkenness, etc) or low-level felonies (drug possession, theft). are release on their own recognizance. Most jurisdictions have a pretrial services program as described in Oliver’s piece. These offices, usually part of the county sheriff’s office, assess the risk of the defendant, and, again, in the vast majority of cases, release the defendant on their own recognizance.

If the defendant is being held on a more serious crime, or if they have a history of failing to appear, or for other reasons, then the defendant is held on as statutory bail amount. Because we don’t have commercial bail bondsmen, a defendant can pay 10% of the statutory bail amount directly to the court to be released. So, if your statutory bail amount is $5000, you pay $500, and get out. The court will take 15% for costs, and if you are assessed an indigent defense cost (for a court appointed attorney), that is paid out of bail too. If you have any fines or fees when the case is concluded, that’s also paid out of the money posted. If you jump bail – if you fail to appear in court – or if you violate any of the terms of your release agreement, you may forfeit the full amount of the bail, meaning you will now owe the court the full $5000. That’s fairly rare, though.

But what if you aren’t released on recog, or if you can’t afford your bail, either because you are indigent, or because you’re charged with a crime with a high amount of statutory bail? Well then you can ask for a release hearing before a judge. And because of another Oregon Supreme Court case, the judge must assess whether the statutory bail is unconstitutional as applied to you – which means, basically, whether it is too high for you to ever have any reasonable expectation of paying it. By law, bail in Oregon cannot be set at a level calculated to keep someone in custody – they must have the ability to pay it. If you are charged with a crime or crimes that set $150,000 bail, and you couldn’t possibly put down $15,000, then the judge can reduce the bail to, say , $10,000, as you have a much more reasonable chance of scrimping, begging, and borrowing $1,000.

Bottom line is this – very few people are in jail in Oregon because they can’t pay bail. There are some. But it’s rare. And thank goodness for that.

Very well said, and very well done by Oregon.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

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