Bail Reform and Political Scapegoating

Recently I read about and listened to Gov. Chris Christie’s criticism of the bail bond industry in the context of New Jersey bail reform.1Like a politician, he conjured up a scapegoat by shining a spotlight on bail bondsmen while defending the Bail Reform Act. Indeed, Gov. Christie claimed, “The bail bonds community has made a fortune over the years predominantly on the backs of poor people in New Jersey.” Oh, really?

Think for a moment about that statement. How can an industry “make a fortune” on poor people? I thought poor people had no money to spare. Indeed, failure to pay the bondsman on the contract did not provide a legal basis for a bail bondsman to terminate supervision. More generally, did Gov. Christie try to score political points “on the backs of poor people in New Jersey?” Listen to what he said and decide for yourself.

Additionally, is the Governor implying bail bondsmen are similar to predatory lenders? Alternatively, is Gov. Christie suggesting bondsmen target the poor like the subprime mortgage agents? Did he forget the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance regulates how much bail bondsmen charge?

Furthermore, did Gov. Christie forget that a bail bond is an insurance policy? Did he forget that a bail bondsman is a type of insurance salesman? Is he oblivious to the fact that bail bondsmen recovered fugitives, allowing local law enforcement to focus their resources on the needs of their local community? Why has the government failed to contract with the bail bondsmen to recover fugitives in the future?

Finally, is it any surprise that this particular tough talk falls on deaf ears?

In the interest of full disclosure, I have represented bail bondsmen in the past. That does not mean I am a member of the bail bond community because I no longer represent them. Instead, it means I know the difference between a legitimate argument and empty rhetoric. Unfortunately, Gov. Christie attacked a legitimate industry on the brink of extinction instead of giving a meaningful answer.

Gloucester County New Jersey Criminal Lawyer Michael Smolensky, Esquire, knows how to protect his clients. Mr. Smolensky can provide consultations for all cases involving bail. Call Now—(856) 812-0321.