Debate over signature bonds happening at state Capitol

ATLANTA — There’s a push at the state Capitol to do away with most signature bonds.

With a signature bond, defendants aren’t required to make a cash deposit or put up collateral.

Instead, they’re required to sign an oath to appear before the court on a given date.

Channel 2′s Richard Elliott spoke with some opponents of the idea who believe those with lower incomes will be affected the most.

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Signature bonds were a big deal a couple of years ago, part of some judicial reform.

But some supporters think this will stop come criminals from getting out on bond and then committing more crimes.

The bill to essentially ban those signature bonds for nearly 60 crimes was dropped by state Sen. Randy Robertson.

That list includes obvious crimes such as murder, aggravated assault, and burglary.

This bill includes other crimes in the news recently.

It would prohibit judges from granting signature bonds for street racing and stunt driving, inciting a riot, unlawful assembly, and obstruction.

Robertson is a former sheriff’s deputy in Columbus and he says it’s important to keep potentially dangerous people off the streets.

And he says accused street racers are potentially dangerous.


“The citizens of Atlanta, Columbus, Macon, and Savannah and other places spend an awful lot of money for their transportation systems, so we felt that should qualify,” Robertson said.

Decatur state Sen. Emmanuel Jones opposes the bill.

He says eliminating signature bonds makes it more difficult for people with low incomes or minorities to get out of jail while awaiting trial, while those more affluent people charged with crimes can.

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“There was a big push to reduce the overflow and overcrowding in our judicial system. This bill is counter to that,” Sen. Jones said. “And certainly, we as Democrats intend to do everything that we can to fight and push back against this particular legislation.”

Sen. Robertson points out that this bill only stops signature bonds and doesn’t prevent judges from setting low bonds if they feel they’re warranted.

“This legislation is nothing more than a guard rail. It doesn’t take away any of the discretion that the judge has,” Sen. Robertson said.

The bill is part of the Senate Republicans’ public safety package for this session.