Friday, September 16, 2016

BAIL BONDS, GRAND JURY and INDICTMENT


Grand jury is the last stage in a criminal investigation. As with all criminal investigations, grand jury proceedings are secret. Grand jurors and petit (trial) jurors are selected from the rolls of registered voters in the county and judicial district where they live. Grand jurors are chosen at random from this jury pool. Twenty grand jurors are impaneled. A minimum of fifteen grand jurors is required to meet and hear the criminal cases. However, only twelve grand jury votes are required to indict a criminal charge.
Once empaneled, the circuit judge will appoint a grand jury foreman. Grand jurors and witnesses must take an oath to keep deliberations secret. Typically a grand jury panel sits for six months, meeting as often as necessary to consider criminal prosecutions and other matters required by law..


A Mississippi grand jury is authorized and empowered by the Mississippi Constitution and law to investigate crimes to decide if whether a crime has been committed and whether the defendant can be identified as the perpetrator of that crime. In order to discharge its investigative duties, the grand jury has broad subpoena powers to compel the attendance and testimony of witnesses and production of documents and evidence.
The grand jury’s broad investigative powers extend to on site inspection of the county jail, youth detention, and sixteenth section land. The grand jury can also hear from the circuit clerk, chancery clerk, tax collector, forestry commission, and board of supervisors and make recommendations in their final report.
Persons testifying before the grand jury are entitled to immunity from prosecution for the crime being investigated. Of course, every witness has a fifth amendment U.S. constitutional right not to incriminate himself and the grand jury cannot compel a witness to do so. If the target or subject of a grand jury investigation wishes to testify, that person can voluntarily waive state law grand jury immunity and U.S. constitutional fifth amendment privilege. Anyone testifying before the grand jury is entitled to seek legal advice. However, the subject’s lawyer is not permitted to appear before the grand jury and must wait outside.

The only persons authorized to appear before the grand jury are the prosecuting attorney presenting the case and any witnesses, such as police investigators or victims. Prosecutors authorized to present matters to the grand jury are the District Attorney and assistants, Attorney General and assistants and the county prosecuting attorney. However, when the grand jury votes to indict or to no true bill a case, only the grand jurors themselves are present. Even prosecutors are excluded during the grand jury vote. Unlike federal grand juries, Mississippi grand juries generally do not have a court reporter to record and transcribe witness testimony. Mississippi grand juries are authorized to send target letters to subjects being investigated. Anyone receiving a target letter from a federal or Mississippi grand jury should immediately consult an attorney for representation. And have a bail agent like Sid Davis of Bail One National Bonding on standby.

When hearing criminal charges, a Mississippi grand jury is authorized to resolve the charge one of three ways. A “True Bill” is a finding of probable cause that the defendant committed the crime. The resulting accusation is called an “Indictment” and identifies the defendant, a concise statement of the facts sufficient to notify the defendant of the elements of the crime charged, jurisdiction of the court, the date of the offense and signature of the grand jury foreman and District Attorney. Depending on the nature of the crime, an exact date may not be required. As long as the defendant is on notice of the charge and its elements, the indictment is sufficient. In practice, most indictments today list the Mississippi code section charged but this is not required by law. The grand jury is authorized to indict felony crimes as well as misdemeanors. However, the overwhelming majority of indictments are for felonies only. If misdemeanor charges are indicted, they usually pertain to the felony charge subject of the indictment.

A “No True Bill” is a grand jury finding that probable cause does not exist. This means the investigation is concluded and the charge is dismissed. Finally, the grand jury is also authorized to charge a misdemeanor even if it is not a lesser included offense. In this case, the grand jury sends the charge back to the court it originated from, usually justice court or municipal court. By investigating and hearing criminal charges, the grand jury also protects the public from unwarranted prosecution. Even if the grand jury issues a No True Bill (dismissal) the arrest remains of record. The arrest and charge can be expunged from government records upon proper application to the court.

The defendant has the right to waive grand jury presentation and indictment after advice of counsel. Frequently, waiver of indictment follows plea negotiations with the prosecutor resulting in a more favorable or reduced charge. The defendant can agree to prosecution by a Bill of Information and Waiver of Indictment.
Other special considerations for the grand jury are multiple counts and multiple defendants charged in a single indictment. The defendant can file a motion to sever counts and co-defendants in order to provide the jury with a clear and unbiased view of the facts. Severance of counts and co-defendants is granted in order to fairly determine the defendant’s guilt or innocence.

Upon proper motion by the prosecution, indictments may be amended for form but not substance. Under some circumstances, an indictment can be amended to conform to the proof. Amendments to the indictment that affect sentencing have been held by the Mississippi Supreme Court to be formal (a matter of form) and not substantial (a matter of substance). This means that the prosecutor can file a motion in court before plea or trial to charge the defendant as habitual offender. Habitual offender status means that the defendant has been convicted of two prior felonies and sentenced to a year to serve on each, even if the defendant got probation. An habitual offender can be sentenced to the maximum time to be served day for day without parole or early release. A life habitual offender means the defendant has two prior felony convictions, that he served at least a year in prison on each conviction, and one conviction was for a crime of violence. A life habitual sentence means life without parole. Habitual offender sentences, like all sentences, must not be cruel or unusual. The sentencing court has authority to reduce the sentence below the maximum to avoid cruel, unusual or disproportionate punishment. However, all habitual offender sentences will be served day for day without parole or early release.

Sentencing enhancement for possession or sale of drugs near a church, school or playground enhances or doubles the penalty for a drug conviction. If the defendant has a prior drug conviction, the penalty can also be enhanced or doubled. The grand jury is authorized to include the sentencing enhancement in the indictment. Alternatively, the District Attorney, on written motion, can ask the court to amend the indictment to include sentencing enhancement.

Mississippi has a trigger lock law which adds a sentencing enhancement for possession of a firearm during a drug crime. The Mississippi trigger lock law increases the penalty for a drug conviction where the defendant possessed a firearm at the time of the offense or the arrest. Like other sentencing enhancements, the grand jury is authorized to include the enhancement in the indictment. Alternatively, the District Attorney can move the court to amend the indictment for the enhanced penalty.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

BAIL BONDS AGENTS TO RECEIVE FIRE ARMS TRAINING



Beginning October 27th, Mississippi Bail Bond Agents will receive fire arms training as part of their continuing education and pre licensing classes..


Training will include; Understanding How a Firearm Works, Safety and Weapon Care, transporting a Firearm, Firearms Control, Weapon Handling and when to use a Firearm. These things are not currently being taught in Mississippi.

Additionally, there will be instruction on Detention and Handcuffing Techniques, the apprehension and surrender process.
BASIC SURETY RECOVERY
This course addresses the recent changes in Mississippi law concerning fugitive recovery and discusses techniques and principles of skip tracing, interviews, arrest and transportation of the fugitive. Issues concerning the safety of both the agent and the fugitive, minimum basic equipment, optional equipment pros and cons will be addressed. This class is an 8 hour class and satisfies the requirements for the Department of Insurance bail bond and surety recovery agent continuing education.

FIREARMS SAFETY AND CONCEALED CARRY
This course is designed to acquaint the student with the basics of handgun safety during all phases of loading, carrying, shooting, cleaning and storing the firearm. Laws concerning concealed carry, lawful use and liability will be addressed. To successfully complete the class student will be required to demonstrate these techniques at the firing range. This class is an 8 hour class and satisfies the requirements for the Department of Insurance bail bond and surety recovery agent continuing education and the State of Mississippi requirements for licensing to carry concealed firearms. 

FOR  INFORMATION ON THIS CALL 228-832-5506 OR 228-832-4427...

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

BAIL BOND INDUSTRY BAD, PAYDAY & TITLE LOANS GOOD?

Bail is defined as “money you leave with the court as a guarantee that you will go to all future court hearings.”  If all hearings are attended, the cash is later returned to the payee. Even when there is a risk of flight, governments find it expensive and unjust to keep those charged with crimes in jail prior to their trial; putting money on the line is a simple way to compel people to show up.
Once a case is completed, the bail money is returned regardless of whether the defendant is found guilty. If the defendant misses the hearing, or is arrested again before the hearing, the money is forfeited to the state. States often grant a grace period in which all or part of the money may be returned if the defendant eventually appears in court. 
The use of bail in order to grant pretrial release is a common practice throughout the world, Though the concept of bail dates back to Ancient Rome, the United States adopted it from the British criminal justice system. In medieval England, judges travelled around the country to conduct trials, which was often very time-consuming. Not wanting to hold accused people while they waited for the judge, local sheriffs set bail. Initially, another individual could promise to make sure the accused appeared at trial -- but over time, this human pledge was replaced by a monetary amount.
Typically, after an arrest is made, bail is offered to the accused in one of two ways: First, immediately after booking, it may be offered based on a pre-established list of bail amounts for common crimes. It also may be offered at an arraignment or bail hearing where a judge uses his or her discretion to set the amount (this usually happens within 48 hours of booking). Only 4% of all defendants are denied bail.
In 2009,the VERA Institute for Justice, an organization which seeks to “make the justice system fairer,” collected bail data for the 75 largest U.S. counties.  Their study found that 40% of felony defendants were released on their own recognizance and 60% were offered bail. The average bail for felonies was $55,400, with murder posting, far and away, the highest average:


In order to have his business instated, a bail bondsman must pass the state licensing requirements and an exam. He then must have an application approved by the state licensing board. A bail bonds business is only able to operate if a larger insurance company will guarantee its bonds.
These larger insurers, called surety companies, underwrite approximately $14 billion dollars of bail bonds per year, and generally take a 10% fee on what the bail bonds agent earns. 
According to a report from The Investigative Fund, surety companies are the big winners in the bail bonds game because they rarely have to pay for a bail loss. The report quotes an officer from the surety company AIA claiming that his company has never paid a bail loss. The bail bonds agent is responsible for paying the bail amount when the defendant doesn’t appear in court. The surety company is only liable if the bail bond agent is unable to pay, and surety companies mitigate this risk by requiring the bail bonds agents to keep sufficient funds to cover their losses.
Criticisms of Bail and Bail Bonding
The primary criticism of the bail system is its regressive nature. Wealthy individuals may be able to put up the entirety of the bail with little consequence; those without wealth are more likely to be stuck in jail. For those who cannot afford the entire bail amount, but have enough money to pay the fee of a bail bonds agent, this means giving up the money for the nonrefundable fee.
It’s also expensive, both directly and indirectly, to keep people in jail. To maintain a crowded jail, the state, local, and federal governments pay a premium for staff, food and shelter. A sheriff's department in Lake County, Oregon estimates that one day in jail costs $130. The overt cost is that keeping people in jail often pushes them further into poverty: inmates often lose their jobs and savings while incarcerated, and are unable to support their families.
Some researchers argue that being held in jail leads to worse legal outcomes than being released. A study on defendants in Kentucky claims that individuals with similar backgrounds who were not released before trial are over three times more likely to be sentenced to prison than those released.
Compared to most other countries, the United States has unusually harsh bail policies. The United States holds nearly 500,000 people in jail pre-trial. This is a rate of 153 pretrial inmates for every 100,000 people in the population, which is substantially higher than any other country with a population above 10,000,000 people. In comparison, Canada and France both hold less than 50 individuals for every 100,000 people.
Other nations typically set bail amounts that are more accessible for defendants. A report on bail in South Africa demonstrates that, unlike in the United States, the vast majority of defendants offered bail in district courts are able to pay the bail amount. In Canada, bail must be set so it is within the reach of the individual or their family. In the United Kingdom, defendants are generally either released on their own recognizance or pretrial release is completely denied; financial bail is rarely used.
In fact, for-profit bail bonding is illegal in most of the world. The American Bar Association and the American Civil Liberties Union have attacked the bail bond industry for not serving the public interest. The bail bonds industry’s incentive is to fight against reform that leads to a reduced demand for bail: recent bipartisan efforts in New Jersey to decrease the number of individuals who pay bail was opposed by representatives of the bail bond industry.
In Defense of Bail Bonding
The bail system does not seem to be going anywhere in the 46 states in which it is still legal. From 1990 to 2009, the percentage of felony defendants released on bail has increased from 40% to 61%, while the number of those released on their own recognizance has decreased.
Reformers have been advocating for the increased use of risk assessment tools to make sure individuals with low probabilities of missing their trial don’t get a high bail or any bail at all. These tools use contextual data such as prior convictions, employment, and drug use history to determine a person's likely behavior. Yet implementing reform is time-consuming and expensive. The state of Maryland has stated its intention to improve its systems, but has made little progress toward that goal. The sector that would most benefit from reforms, the poor, lacks political clout.
Some argue that lobbying from the bail bond industry has also contributed to the 20-year rise of bail. In a report attacking for-profit bail bonding, the Justice Policy Institute claims that “the industry has been successful in using its wealth and influence to promote industry friendly legislation and thwart reform efforts.” The report details various examples of how campaign contributions have been used to impact legislation, including over $100,000 in donations that went to two state senators in Texas who introduced bills that “set restrictions on alternatives to for-profit bail bonding...” The American Bail Coalition asserts that this report is “propaganda” and “filled with disinformation.”
The bail bond industry is now working to expand bail bonding as a method of solving the problem of overcrowded prisons. The proposal is that non-violent offenders could put up an amount of money to get out of prison that they would get it back if they acted in accord with what the state mandates. If they are unable to afford the amount, they can pay a bail bondsman a fee to stake the money, and then that bail bondsman essentially becomes their probation officer. Laws have already been passed in Mississippi and Michigan allowing for such bonds and some researchers believe believe their nationwide adoption is inevitable.
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There are many good reasons to argue that bail in America should be radically reformed and possibly eliminated. In many ways, it’s a regressive tax against the poor. Likewise, the “bail bondsmen” industry profiteers on those who lack the ability to post their own bail.
And yet, the use of bail is on the rise and the bail bondsman lobby is working to extract more fees by fixing itself in the legal process. Despite the amalgam of reasons to reduce the prevalence of bail in America, it seems to only be getting further entrenched in our culture.