OLYMPIA - A Washington state task force formed after the shooting deaths of four Lakewood police officers recommended on Wednesday tighter regulation of bail bondsmen and more information-sharing with judges who set bail, The Seattle Times reported.
The suspect in the police deaths, Maurice Clemmons, bailed out of jail three times in 2009 without ever paying more than 4 percent up front, including just days before the Lakewood police shootings.
Unlike some states, Wash- ington does not require peo- ple getting a bail bond to pay 10 percent of its value.
The 20-person task force, which was created to study the bail system following the police deaths, did not suggest minimum payment rates for those who get a bail bond.
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Judges, prosecutors and victims’ advocates have ar- gued for a fixed bail bond premium. But defense attor- neys and others have wor- ried that a minimum pay- ment could hurt the poor, the Times reported.
Task force member and Snohomish County prosecu- tor Mark Roe said some offi- cials were “disillusioned” they didn’t know bail bondsmen required less than 10 percent. “To be honest, I was embar- rassed,” he told the Times.
But the task force’s chairman, state Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, said the Clem- mons case was an extreme example that shouldn’t set policy. He also said a fixed premium could hurt poorer people charged with crimes.
“As a practical matter, the standard is 10 percent in almost every case,” Kline said.
Sen. Mike Carrell, R- Lakewood, said he favors a minimum payment for bail bonds. Without it, bail bondsmen are effectivel y setting bail instead of judges, Carrell said.
“If judges can’t have some certainty, then how can they ever set bail to ensure com- munity protection?” Carrell asked.
The task force’s report recommended that the 2011 Legislature come up with “a generally recognized defini- tion of what bail means, sub- ject to further discussion.”
It also suggested giving judges more information about people seeking bail, such as risk-prediction tools from the Department of Cor- rections and mental health records. Bondsmen also should be required to go through background checks and county court systems – which verify bail-bonding companies – could be re- quired to tell each other whether bail-bond compa- nies are on shaky financial footing.