Cash bond overhaul bill clears first committee hurdle

credit card fees (Large)
The ACLU is among the slew of bill proponents.

Florida’s criminal bond process may soon undergo an overhaul under a bill blessed Tuesday by a House committee.

Under current law, court fines and fees are collected out of a person’s bond payment. For example, if a person is arrested and a loved one posts bond, the loved one may lose some of the payment — if not all — to court-imposed fines and fees.

The proposal (HB 97), however, would provide defendants and their spouses the same guarantees afforded to bail bondsmen — a full refund.

Pensacola Republican Rep. Alex Andrade is the bill sponsor. The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Subcommittee OK’d the bill unanimously and without debate.

Andrade told lawmakers the bill will fix a long-term problem within the justice system.

“We are still sentencing someone else who’s not been accused of a crime to serve a part of the sentence for the accused,” Andrade said.

Though the proposal garnered the full support of members, at least one lawmaker noted the bill’s fiscal impact on clerks of court.

While it is unclear how much clerks may lose under the proposal, Andrade said he is working with all vested parties, including the clerks.

“I’m not insensitive to the fact that this would result in probably fewer fines and fees being collected by the clerk of courts going forward,” Andrade told Shalimar Republican Rep. Patt Maney, an attorney and Army veteran.

The ACLU of Florida and R Street Institute are among a slew of the bill’s proponents — a fact Andrade emphasized in his closing.

“I think this is the first time in my service in the Florida Legislature that the ACLU has waived in support of a bill of mine,” he quipped. “I’ll be walking a little bit taller out of this committee after this vote.”

Democratic lawmakers were also on board for the bipartisan-led proposal.

“I don’t think folks other than defendants themselves … should get dinged,” said Miami Beach Democratic Rep. Michael Grieco.

The bill will appear next before the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee and the House Judiciary Committee. Orlando Democratic Sen. Linda Stewart is the companion bill sponsor (SB 1462).

If signed into law, the bill would go into effect July 1.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the Florida State Capitol. After a go with the U.S. Army, the Orlando-native attended the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. He'd love to hear from you. You can reach Jason by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.


3 comments

  • America

    February 8, 2022 at 8:14 pm

    After seeing a slew of terrible bill proposals and a ton of partisan nonsense, it’s nice to see something good that both Republicans and Democrats can agree on.

  • confused

    February 8, 2022 at 8:31 pm

    ..Having read the analysis of the bill, this does the exact opposite of what this article claims:
    “CS/HB 97 amends s. 903.286(1), F.S., to require the clerk of the court to withhold funds from the return of a cash bond to pay fines, fees, and court costs imposed at the conclusion of a criminal case only when posted by a criminal defendant or his or her spouse. Under the bill, if a defendant’s cash bond is posted by a third party such as a non-spouse relative or friend, the clerk of the court may not withhold funds from the cash bond at the conclusion of a defendant’s criminal case to pay specified fees and costs associated with the defendant’s criminal court case.”

  • America

    February 8, 2022 at 8:32 pm

    ..Having read the analysis of the bill, this does the exact opposite of what this article claims; it seems that defendants and their wife would still be on the hook for fees.

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