CREATED Jan. 29, 2013 - UPDATED: Jan. 30, 2013
LEE COUNTY - Getting out of jail just got a little harder in Lee County. Attorneys say some people arrested for minor offenses are not being allowed to post bond.....and taxpayers could also be stuck paying for their crimes. Four in your Corner's Mike Mason getting both sides of this tonight.
Local attorneys and bail bondsmen fired up, accusing the court system of unethical behavior but court officials say that's not the case.
Most people arrested for minor crimes are allowed to post bond and get out of jail within a few hours, but officials in Lee County now saying not so fast.
Jimmy Rios owns First Exit Bail Bonds. He says business is slowing down because Lee County courts are now denying bond to many of his potential customers.
Mike Mason: "Have you talked to other bail bondsmen about this and are they complaining?”
Jimmy Rios: "Many companies are complaining at the moment, this is not the only company complaining almost every company in town is complaining."
Attorney Janese Caruthers says there's good reason to complain. People who are denied bond are kept in jail until their first court appearance.
Janese Caruthers: "They're basically detaining people for court even though the people would normally be able to bond out and get out."
Mike Mason: "So why is this happening now? Last March. Chief Judge Jay Rosman signed this administrative order allowing pretrial service officers to hold people until their first appearance."
Caruthers says other people are being told they can get out of jail without posting bond as long as they agree to go to a pre-trial services program. That program requires them to be supervised by court officials....sometimes for months....until their case is resolved.
Janese Caruthers: "It's pretty much the same as being on probation even though you haven't even been convicted of anything yet."
A court spokesperson tells us: "Pre-trial officers do not make people take pre-trial release. Defendants are given the options. Many don't select pre-trial release because they don't want to be supervised."
Those who do sign up for the program are often required to meet with an officer every week and take frequent drug tests and evaluations.....Caruthers says taxpayers foot the bill.
Janese Caruthers: "Because now you have more pre-trial services officers that are necessary to supervise all these people."
Court officials say not every person is ordered to take drug tests or have evaluations so tax dollars are not always used. One thing is clear, this issue is bound to heat up in the coming months.