Friday Sep 11 2009
Can credit card thieves charge their bail at jail?
By: Jim Ruffalo
Looking Behind the Scenes
Adding maps and a GPS to the notebook while wondering why other media outlets don’t take the Journal’s lead and call the recent urban interface conflagration the 49 Fire, instead of the 49er Fire. Most of us remember the real 49er Fire touched off 21 years ago up in the Penn Valley area. ... On the other hand, most of us also remember how you usually needed a reliable bondsman to go your bail should you find yourself ensconced at the gray-bar hotel. But judging by a recent vote from the Placer County Board of Supervisors, that’s about to change. According to county Undersheriff Devon Bell, that recent decision allows the county jail to enter into an agreement with GovPay, a firm that already is doing business with several other California counties. GovPay allows arrestees booked on relatively minor infractions to go their bail via a credit card, rather than using cash or securing real property for a bail bondsman. Of course, the whole idea is predicated on believing that the state legislature will wind up allowing at least a handful of inmates to remain incarcerated. At the rate Sacramento is moving these days, that premise is not a given. As for the local hoosegow, Bell said that GovPay’s programs in other counties appear to be successful. “The few exceptions seem to be in areas where the word hasn’t gone out, so people who could use the service aren’t doing so because they don’t know anything about it,” Bell said. As for the system itself, Bell says “It’s just another way for (arrestees) to secure bail,” adding that implementation for the process has no date certain because “the county is still working on revising rules and policies to allow it.” Nobody said so, but perhaps another reason it isn’t in place yet is that the sheriff’s jail captain — the venerable George Malim — is recovering from a serious bypass procedure. He has our prayers. Still, Bell feels that the new program will soon be in place. “Speculatively speaking, the process appears seamless as far as we’re concerned,” he said. Perhaps, but one has to wonder how bail will be returned after an exoneration. And another question is will those arrested on suspicion of credit card fraud or identity theft be allowed to use this new system? … Flying the coop? Joe LaBrie is still Auburn’s elected city clerk, but had an Aug. 31 county superior court decision gone another way, he might have had to vacate the office. Now let’s report right here and now that LaBrie had done nothing criminal. What happened is that he was in a court battle over possibly being evicted from his digs over at the Palm Apartments. It all had to do with claims that he was keeping an aviary in his apartment. The decision said he had to get rid of the birds and accouterments, but LaBrie gets to stay. During the court process, LaBrie told me that if he’d been forced to move from his HUD-subsidized digs, there was no way he could afford to live in Auburn. And if he was not a legal resident, he would then be forced to resign from office. Still, the stay may be short-lived. I’ve been told by more than one city source that discussions are ongoing about changing that office from being elective to one run by a city employee. “Of course, that idea would first have to go to the City Council, and then to the (city) voters for their approval,” one source said. Jim Ruffalo can be reached at jim firstname.lastname@example.org.