In the latest issue (July 2018) of The Recorder: The Journal of Texas Municipal Courts, the article gracing the front page is all about personal bonds. It is informative, straightforward, and succinct. Authors Ryan Kellus Turner (TMCEC’s General Counsel and Director of Education) and Henry W. Knight (TMCEC’s summer intern and a University of Texas Law student entering is final year) taught me a few things that I’d like to share with you.
Personal Bonds are Not Personal Recognizance Bonds
Personal bonds and personal recognizance bonds (or PR bonds) are terms often used interchangeably and naturally this has created a belief that they are the same. They are not. A person released on his or her own recognizance does not provide any security that they will show up for court–rather, they are merely recognizing their obligation to later appear in court.
Personal bonds, on the other hand, are forms of security. It is not just a promise, but rather it is a person agreeing to be personally responsible for the bail amount set by the judge or magistrate should the person later fail to appear in court.
Not Every Offense is Eligible for a Personal Bond
Only a trial court can allow a personal bond for certain enumerated offenses listed in the code, including capital murder, aggravated sexual assault, and burglary. Please read the article for the full list.
Not Every Defendant can Satisfy a Personal Bond’s Specific Requirements
The Code of Criminal Procedure contains seven requirements including the following: defendant’s place of employment, defendant’s address, and the number and state of defendant’s driver’s license. These requirements would seem to mean that defendants that are unemployed, homeless, or without a license would not be able to get a personal bond.
The authors contend that these requirements limit the utility of personal bonds, and they may not equalize pretrial release for those unable to make “money bail.” This is a conversation that is sure to continue in Texas.
This is just a snippet of what I learned in the article, and I strongly encourage anyone involved in municipal courts in Texas to read it–especially in light of the new Chapter 45 requirements that municipal judges use personal bond to secure appearance for fine only misdemeanors.