Bondsmen Pan Bail Overhaul Plan

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A proposal by New York's top judge to make big changes to the bail bonds system for criminal defendants is getting bad reviews from the bail industry.

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman said in his annual State of the Judiciary speech Tuesday that judges should order supervised monitoring for nonviolent offenders, when possible. And when bail is required, Lippman wants not-for-profits to replace for profit lenders.

George Zouvelos, president of the New York Professional Bail Bondsmen and Agents, said his members will fight the proposals.

“We strive for personal profit,” Zouvelos said. “The professional bail bondsman brings important benefits for society. Changing the effective system of the status quo would be not only a mistake but catastrophic.”

Zouvelos said criminal defendants are often treated badly in the overburdened courts system, but the bail bonds industry is not the problem.

He also denied Lippman’s claim that the bail bonds industry fails to meet the needs of low-income New Yorkers who are unable to meet even low bail requirements.

“I do $1,000 bonds and $750 bonds by the ton,” Zouvelos said.

There are thought to be about 70 active bail bondsmen in the state.