Local Politics

Local officials ask Gov. Walker to stop bail bondsmen provision

LA CROSSE, Wis. - A major change could be on the way for the Wisconsin court system.

The recently passed state budget has a provision that would open the door for private bail bondsmen in the state.

Now local law enforcement and judicial officials are asking Gov. Scott Walker to use his veto power to stop the change.

Local law enforcement, judges, district attorneys, clerks of court and even criminal defense attorneys are all joining forces to try and get Gov. Walker's attention.

They said bringing in private bail bondsmen will make the situation worse for everyone involved in the judicial process.

It's a system, La Crosse County Clerk of Courts Pam Radtke said is working the way it's supposed to.

"Basically we're trying to fix something that's not broken," said Radtke.


That's why officials in the state are hoping Walker will veto legislation that would allow bail bondsmen in the state.

"You'd have to look really hard to find a single judge, sheriff, or district attorney in this state that's in favor of bail bondsmen," said democratic state representative Steve Doyle.

If signed into law, defendants would be able to go to a bail bondsmen, pay just 10 percent of their total bond and the private company would post the rest.

La Crosse County Judge Scott Horne said that change is bad news for victims.

"The bond can be used to pay restitution first and then court obligations. If the bail bond statute passes, than any bond the person puts up goes to the company that was responsible for posting the bond," said Horne.

Last year in La Crosse County, more than $25,000 of bond money went to victim restitution and $29,000 went to victim witness programs.

If bail bondsmen are allowed in the state, most of that money would disappear.

Criminal defense attorney's are also speaking out about the provision saying it would actually hurt their clients.

"A lot of the people charged with crimes are not found guilty of any crime. In the current system, they get all of their money back, now they will have to pay 10 percent of whatever bond is required and they won't get a nickel of it back," said attorney Jim Kroner.

Another concern is that judges will increase bail amounts because defendants would only have to pay 10 percent to a bondsman.

Judge Horne said judges would take the change into account, but the price bail is set at must continue to be a reasonable amount for the charges.

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