The Galveston bail bond County District Attorney’s Office, and the felony judge in the county, had opposed the order after it was presented by a magistrate last month. They called it an “impermissible expansion of the Sixth Amendment” and asked for a delay of 30 days from the U.S. District Judge to implement his order to avoid “plunging into chaos the current system.”

Galveston Bail Bonds

Galveston County Ordered By a Federal Judge to Have Defense Attorneys at Bail Bonds
Galveston County Ordered By a Federal Judge to Have Defense Attorneys at Bail Bonds

A phone conference was scheduled for Thursday morning by the district judge. However, the magistrate judge stated last month that the order would only allow one defense attorney to be present at initial bail hearings. This will still be available for all arrestees on the docket. The requests for comment were not immediately answered Wednesday by either the Texas Attorney General’s Office or the District Attorney’s Office. (Update) On Thursday, the judge denied a delay of the order for 30 more days and set its effective date as Sept. 25.

Galveston Bail Bond is now the third Texas county that has been placed under a federal bail order. Federal court ruled that both Harris County and Dallas County’s bail systems were unconstitutional. Judges have been known to use practices in which defendants’ cash access determines whether they are released from jail or sent to trial. Since then, Harris County has dramatically changed its pretrial release system to misdemeanor defendants. This includes having defense lawyers at the initial bail hearing. officials have recently proposed a settlement in order to end litigation. Dallas County has started to implement some changes but the Texas attorney general and felony judges have appealed.

Galveston’s lawsuit started with Aaron Booth, 38. He was arrested on April 18, 2018, for a felony drug possession offense. According to court records, the Galveston County pretrial process recommended that a prosecutor set bail at $20,000, based on a schedule kept by the district attorney’s. Booth was arrested shortly after his first court appearance. The judicial officer adopted the recommended bail amount, based only on the charges and without taking into account his financial situation.

Booth was unable to afford his release and was not allowed to request a court-appointed lawyer until after his bail hearing. Booth spent 54 days in prison, but he was not yet convicted. After that, he and his lawyer were able to present a lower bail amount to the court. He was convicted of possessing less that one gram of controlled substances and sentenced to 100 days imprisonment.

Galveston Bail Bond has changed its pretrial procedures since the lawsuit was filed. The two largest counties in Texas were repeatedly penalized by federal judges for their bail policies. While the district attorney’s office recommends that bail amounts be set according to a schedule, the bail officer now has financial information from the defendant. A second bail review hearing can be requested by defendants who wish to lower their bond amount. This happens usually within 12 hours after the defendant’s first court appearance. In this time, a defense attorney will represent all of the defendants before that judge.

U.S. District Judge George Hanks Jr. issued an injunction stating that the county must have a lawyer at all hearings and at the first court appearance. The order is applicable to all persons arrested without warrants, and those who are first seen in Galveston County Jail. Hanks accepted the recommendation of Andrew Edison, magistrate judge. He said that having a defense lawyer at a hearing where a court decides whether or not to release a defendant prior to trial is “a no-brainer.”

Edison wrote last month that unrepresented defendants, particularly those who have not had any experience in criminal justice, are not in a position at an initial bail hearing, to present the strongest, most persuasive case for why they should be released pending trial.”

District court judges argued that having a defense lawyer at the initial hearing would only “add complexity and more time” to them, possibly delaying defendants’ release while they wait for lawyers or a financial decision. In a filing, he stated that prosecutions would also like to attend the initial hearings. This would add a significant burden to District Attorney Jack Roady’s office. They claim that having defense attorneys present at bail review hearings, which usually take place 12 hours after the initial appearance, is sufficient.

Judges were not convinced. Edison stated that it was difficult to understand how this could be problematic, since Galveston County already has a defense attorney for review hearings. These hearings are just as common as initial bail hearings. One court-appointed attorney will handle review hearings, be available to all defendants appearing before the judge, and then a separate attorney will be appointed to each case.

Edison wrote that Galveston County must provide counsel for indigent defendants at their initial bail hearing 12 hours sooner than it does now.

Galveston’s Island Bail bonds is a full-service bail agency located in Galveston (TX), just 3 miles from Galveston County Jail. Our clients receive assistance in navigating the criminal justice system. We offer services for Felonies, Misdemeanors and Probation Revocations /Walk Through, Cash Bonds and Surety Bonds as well as Personal Bail Bonds. Federal Bail Bonds are also available. Transfer Bonds are also available.

For a free quote, call us at (800) 274-BAIL (2245).

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