To the Editor:
A few months ago a local man -- hardworking and honest but short on funds -- made a mistake.
Wanting to help him through his difficulties, I went to our jail and handed over $500 cash to post a bail bond (a check was not considered acceptable).
The authorities handed me a paper instructing me to sign and date it, which I did hurriedly, since the defendant's wife was sitting in her car outside the jail.
I did not read it.
As an attorney I should know better, but after all, I was dealing with the legal system, not some fly-by-night outfit, and the paper was undoubtedly just some formality.
They gave me a receipt, made a phone call and the defendant soon appeared, looking confused and sheepish, and hurried out to his wife.
In due time the case was heard and determined by the court, and I went to the clerk's office to retrieve my $500.
What a surprise awaited me. The clerk said there was no money left to return.
Remember that little piece of paper I signed at the jail?
It expressed by concurrence that the court could take certain expenses out of the bond money.
These included "$270 PCDAP, $100 PUF, $50 bail bond fee and $75 toward DIF."
Yep, that pretty well exhausted the $500.
I was always under the presumption that a bail bond is posted to guarantee the defendant appears for trial.
This whole manner of handling things struck me as a bit sneaky.
I wonder what happens if the professional bondsman refuses to sign the little piece of paper?
J. Frank Durham