Opponents of a House-passed bill say more people will remain behind bars since the legislation would make their bail money forfeitable to pay outstanding restitution, fines, fees and other costs a defendant owes. But its sponsor Rep. Sheryl Delozier said it improves the chances of crime victims being made whole. (File photo/PennLive.com)
By JAN MURPHY, PennLive, March 20, 2017
Crime victims will like this bill that won House passage on Monday but moms posting bail for their son or daughter who broke the law might not.
By a 146-51 bipartisan vote, legislation, sponsored by Rep. Sheryl Delozier, R-Cumberland County, was approved that would provide for bail money to be forfeited to pay outstanding restitution, fees, fines or other costs owed by the defendant. Any money leftover would be returned to them.
The same rules would apply regardless of who’s pocket the bail money came out of.
“The restitution in itself is bringing the victim who didn’t ask to be part of the criminal justice system back to whole,” Delozier told PennLive. “Many times, such a small percent of victim restitution is paid.”
Beyond that, she said she found it interesting that defendants often can find the money to post bail to avoid being held behind bars. Yet, after they are found guilty, she said, “all of a sudden they are broke and can’t pay the court fines and can’t pay the victim.”
So the goal of the legislation is to increase the chances for crime victims to recover restitution. It is a collection method that is used in other states.
But Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware County, saw an unfairness to this idea. He said a family member who posts bail “because they have this moral obligation to do it because it’s blood” could lose their money.
Further, he said, “it discourages people from putting up bail and that might encourage more people to remain in jail.”
Delozier said the legislation requires anyone who puts up bail money to receive a written notice about the possibility of their money being used to pay outstanding fees, fines, restitution or costs.
Additionally, she said a judge can be petitioned if this would impose a hardship.
Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Montgomery County, also voiced opposition to the bill, saying this is not the purpose of bail and could increase county incarceration costs.
A fiscal note for the bill anticipates it would not impose any cost on the commonwealth.
This is the third legislative session that Delozier has introduced the bill. It passed the House in 2015 by 154-39 vote but it failed to receive a final vote in the Senate before the two-year legislative session ended on Nov. 30.