Thursday, August 23, 2007

Supreme Court lowers amount Iowans need to get out of jail

The Iowa Supreme Court has lowered the amount of cash needed to get out of jail, a change that took effect Wednesday.

The change will be beneficial for those arrested plus their friends and family members who might want to bail them out, one bail bondsman said.

"They were outrageously high before," Jay Rothmeyer of Iowa Bail Bonds said of the bail bonds. "It was too expensive for people to get their friends and relatives out of jail.''

Rothmeyer contended that though he will make less money as a result of the Aug. 2 decision, business will increase as more people will be able to pay the 10 percent needed for release.

Inmates can be released by paying the entire bond themselves, or paying the 10 percent to a bondsman, who posts bond on the assurance that the inmate will appear in court.

"If more people can afford to get out, everyone's going to be OK in the long run," Rothmeyer said.

The bond schedule was last changed in 1999.

The Uniform Bond Schedule is set by the Court Judicial Council, which advises the Supreme Court regarding administration of the state's judicial branch and is made up of the chief judges of each of Iowa's eight districts, the chief judge of the Court of Appeals and Marsha Ternus, chief justice of the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruling said modifications to the bail bond schedule were warranted, but didn't give reasons.

Bail costs will drop significantly. For example, bond for second-degree theft, a class D felony, will be cut nearly in half from $9,750 to $5,000. Bond for first-offense drunken driving, a serious misdemeanor, will drop from $1,950 to $1,000.

The updated bond schedule will not apply to those in jail for forcible felonies, such as murder, the manufacture, possession or dealing of methamphetamine or stalking.

Bonds also cannot be added on each other, according to the order signed by Ternus.

Inmates must now pay the amount only for the highest class of offense charged, "regardless of the number of equal or lesser charges."

Rothmeyer said that in his experience, bond schedules generally increase. The drop, he said, was a pleasant surprise. Especially when judges adjusted the schedule Wednesday.

"To get everyone on the same page, that will take a while," he said.

No comments: