Proposal could make it easier for accused to walk streets before trial

MADISON (WITI) -- It's not exactly a "get out of jail free" card. But a proposal on Gov. Scott Walker's desk could make it easier for accused criminals to walk the streets before trial.

Both houses of the Wisconsin Legislature approved allowing bail bondsmen in Wisconsin as part of the budget. It's something that's been banned for more than 30 years. While Gov. Walker vetoed the measure the last time around, some believe this time may be different.

When a judge sets bail for an accused criminal, you have to ask family or friends to help or you stay in jail. But allowing bail bondsmen could change all of that.

Commercial companies like those in Michigan may soon be able to set up shop to charge inmates a fee, pay the court a portion of the bail, and have the inmate sign a legal contract that they must show up in court and are responsible for the money if they don't show up.

Bail bondsmen will also have authority to go find and arrested the accused if they don't show up.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is pushing the idea of ail bondsmen.

"The reason we want bail bondsmen is to increase the show rate for every single person who is let out on bond. Because ultimately, that's the reason bail bonds are allowed not to collect guarantees of forfeitures or fines. It's to guarantee someone comes back to court," said Vos.

Milwaukee County Chief Judge Jeffrey Kremers says bail should be set by judges and a court assessment; based on risk to the community and the likelihood a defendant will return to court -- not profit.

In addition, the court uses bail for restitution -- to pay back victims if the court orders it.

"Last year for example in Wisconsin, we the court system paid out to victims across the state of Wisconsin one point one million dollars in restitution which would not have been there under a commercial bail bondsmen situation," said Chief Judge Kremers.

Gov. Walker is expected to sign or veto the proposal this week. So far, there's no indication of what he will do. But there are bail bondsmen companies across the country waiting to see if Wisconsin will be a new place for their business.