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Bail Bonds v. Pre-Trial Services in Salt Lake County

Bail bond companies in Utah provide an important service. Under both the federal and state constitutions, a person charged with a crime is generally entitled to a reasonable bail. But in many cases, a person may not be able to afford the full amount of even a "reasonable" bail. For a fee, bail bond companies can post a bond on behalf of the defendant, allowing the defendant to be released from jail while the case is pending.

But a bail bond company is not always the best or most cost-effective method of securing a release from jail. (An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you determine the best way to address an arrest warrant or possible release from jail.) In some cases, a defendant may not be able to afford the costs of using a bail bond company.

In Salt Lake County, the courts may order a person released under the supervision of Pre-Trial Services. This county agency plays an important role in the criminal justice system.

Criticisms of the Costs for Pre-Trial Services

Salt Lake County Pre-Trial Services is a county government agency, funded by taxpayer dollars. Some critics argue that when the function of a bail bond company is replaced by a government-funded pre-trial release system, taxpayers are required to shoulder additional costs - not only for the county pre-trial services system itself, but also for the additional costs of locating and arresting fugitive defendants who fail to appear at required court hearings.

Critics note that when a bail bond company posts a bond on behalf of a criminal defendant, the bail bond company takes on financial risks associated with the possibility that a defendant may flee or otherwise fail to appear in court as required. When a defendant fails to appear, the bail bond company may be required to forfeit the amount of the bond posted on behalf of that defendant. In order to avoid having to forfeit that bond amount, the bail bond company will attempt to locate and apprehend the fugitive defendant. If the bail bond company can bring the defendant in to court prior to the expiration of the forfeiture period, the bail bond company will not lose its bond.

Critics also note that when a defendant who has been released through a pre-trial release program fails to appear at a required court hearing, law enforcement officers (police, sheriff, highway patrol, etc.) are tasked with locating and arresting the fugitive defendant. Thus, tax payers end up footing the bill both for the pre-trial release system and also the costs of apprehending fugitive defendants.

While there is some legitimacy to the arguments presented by these critics, these arguments fail to recognize the financial and social costs of NOT having a pre-trial release system.

Many people who are arrested for non-violent offenses pose little or no threat to the public. And even in cases where a bail amount is set at a relatively low amount, there are many people who do not have the financial reserves either to post a cash bail or to pay a bond company to post a bond on their behalf. Without a pre-trial release system, these non-dangerous offenders would either be held in jail until their cases were fully resolved (often for weeks or months) or would be released without any supervision due to jail overcrowding or on an "own recognizance" release.

Incarcerating non-violent non-dangerous offenders in jail while awaiting court or trial can cost taxpayers thousands of dollars. The current Salt Lake County Jail faces overcrowding issues daily. Building additional jail space to house these additional individuals would require millions of taxpayer dollars to cover both construction and operating costs.

In addition to the financial costs, social costs associated with this kind of incarceration should also be considered. Many people arrested for minor offenses are hard-working employees, dedicated mothers and fathers, students, etc. Holding these people in jail unnecessarily can result in lost productivity for employers, significant disruptions for families, and poor school performance which can have long term affects on a person's education and future employability.

Salt Lake County Pre-Trial Services also does more than just "release" people from jail. Persons arrested for criminal activity are often struggling with substance abuse, mental health issues, or other problems. While a person is under the supervision of Salt Lake County Pre-Trial Services, they can be required to participate in a variety of programs. A defendant can be required to undergo rug testing to monitor sobriety. The court may also require a defendant to participate in an assessment process to determine appropriate treatment recommendations.

While the critics of Pre-Trial Services may point out the costs associated with the program, they often fail to recognize the benefits and cost savings that can result from the program when it is effectively managed and administered. Both sides must be considered in properly evaluating the costs and benefits of the program.

Finding a Utah Criminal Defense Attorney in Salt Lake City

Utah Criminal Defense LawyerIf someone you care about has been arrested, hiring the right criminal defense attorney can be the key to achieving the best outcome for the case. Before making any decisions in a criminal case, it is critical to consult with an experienced criminal lawyer.

As a Utah criminal lawyer based in Salt Lake City, Stephen Howard has successfully handled criminal cases ranging from DUI to homicide, and virtually everything in between. Contact us today to schedule confidential consultation.


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Serving Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Utah, Cache, Tooele, Summit, Box Elder, and Wasatch Counties, and all of Utah.

Attorney Stephen Howard practices as part of the Canyons Law Group, LLC and Stephen W. Howard, PC.

Offices in Salt Lake and Davis Counties
560 South 300 East, Suite 200, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
952 S. Main St., Suite A, Layton, UT 84041

Call now to arrange for a confidential initial consultation with an experienced and effective Utah criminal defense lawyer.

In Salt Lake City, call 801-449-1409.
In Davis County, call 801-923-4345.

Stephen W. Howard, PC

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