One Dollar Bonds Given to Indicted Austin Police Officers
Last week, 19 police officers were indicted for police brutality surrounding the George Floyd protests in 2020. Five of the officers received $5,000 bonds and the rest received $1 bonds. A bond amount is the price you must pay to be released from jail while you await trial. You can either pay the amount in cash (which you will receive back after your case is disposed), or you can pay a percentage (usually 10%) through a bondsman, who posts for you. If you go through a bondsman, you do not receive the money back.
What is the purpose of a bond?
A bond amount is – theoretically – only to assure that a person will return to court. Other bond conditions (like curfew, ignition interlock, or ankle monitor) can also be included to assure safety in the community. Those are the only reasons a bond can be set. It is NOT designed to be a punishment.
The judge in this case obviously decided that the officers are not a threat to society, and are not a flight risk. It might surprise you to know that I don’t have a problem with the $1 bonds for police officers. The judge obviously looked at the facts and found that 5 of the officers were more culpable, giving the $5,000 bonds, while 14 less culpable officers were given the $1 bonds. If these officers are truly not a flight risk or a danger to the community, then a $1 bond is appropriate.
A Double Standard
But here’s the problem. Regular people charged with crimes – in my experience – are not offered $1 Bonds. SB6, which I previously talked about in the video here, significantly limits the ability for a judge to give Personal Recognizance (PR) bonds in violent cases. This is why PR bonds were not available to these officers. Since this bill took effect, I wondered in my video whether $1 bonds would be a thing. However, when I have asked for $1 bonds, I have been told “no” by judges.
The $1 bonds given by this judge to officers indicates a clear double standard. And while the $5,000 bonds are somewhat standard practice, they too are low, considering the extreme injuries caused by these officers. (At least one man has significant permanent brain damage despite being a bystander not actively participating in the protests).
Using the situation to my advantage
A good attorney is going to try to make lemonade from the lemons he is given. In future cases where I am requesting bonds, I will point to these cases and request a one dollar bond for my clients. If the judge is being intellectually honest, he or she must grant a $1 bonds if the facts are equally or less severe than the police brutality cases. Now, there is a precedent set that $1 bonds ARE a thing, and should be utilized in the right situations.
Cashless bond – A better solution?
As I have discussed many times before, our justice system should not be based on the amount of money you have in the bank. That’s why, SB6, which limits PR bonds is a huge step in the wrong direction. Being released from jail gives an accused person the chance to fight his case, rather than waiting months or years in jail for a trial. This opportunity should not be given only to the affluent in society.
Cashless bail is not perfect, but is a step in the right direction in giving each person the opportunity to fight their case – regardless of their income. It is also better equipped to keep the offenders who are truly a risk to society behind bars, whether they have money or not.
This blog is for educational purposes and does not constitute legal advice. If you would like legal advice on your criminal case in Travis, Williamson, or Hats county, visit atx.legal, or call us at 512-677-5003.