Upon taking office on Jan. 1, District Court Judge R. O’Neil Williams, began a review of the cash bonds of accused individuals awaiting trial in the 268th District Court.
The purpose of the review was to determine, and discover whether any of those accused, but not yet convicted, were being held on excessively high bonds. Additionally, Williams continues to examine whether there are indigent persons who would be unable to afford a cash bond of any amount, where a personal recognizance bond would stand as the accused’s promise to appear in court as ordered.
After reviewing hundreds of pending cases, Williams has announced that upon his own motion, he will immediately begin to reduce the cash bonds in cases where he determines the current bond amount is excessive or oppressive. Additionally, Williams has invited attorneys with jailed clients on cases pending in the 268th District Court to file the proper motion for bond reduction, if they feel that the current bond amount is excessive or oppressive.
Williams will consider the nature and grade of the offense, the probable cause for the arrest, and relative risk to the community, in determining if the bond is reasonable. Other factors may include the accused’s ties to the area communities, the likelihood the accused will abscond, and the accused person’s history of failure to appear in court.
Williams insists that the safety of the community is immensely important in his review and in any reduction of bonds, which may follow. However, he maintains that, with few exceptions, the Constitution of the United States, and that of the State of Texas grants to all persons accused of a crime, but not yet convicted, the presumption of innocence, and the right to a reasonable bond.
The judge urges all involved to remember that the requirement of bond is not intended to be punishment. The sole purpose of a bond in criminal cases is to ensure the accused person’s appearance in court as the case progresses to completion.