ATLANTA -- It will cost a little more for many people to get out of jail if a bill approved by the Georgia House on Wednesday becomes law.
The measure, approved 142-23 and sent to the Senate, would allow bail bondsmen to charge a fee of 12 percent for guaranteeing bonds less than $10,000 and 15 percent on bonds above that.
Currently, they may charge only 10 percent of the amount of the bond.
Bonding services typically are used by those accused of a crime who don't have the cash to make bond or don't own property in the jurisdiction in which they are charged.
"It allows the bond people of this state to make a fair profit," argued Rep. Robin Williams, R-Augusta. "If you don't have these people out there writing these bonds, every county in this state is going to have to build a new wing (on their jails)."
Rep. Billy Randall, D-Macon, the bill's sponsor, argued, "It's a risky business and, yes, they should get paid for taking that risk."
Bondsmen must pay the full amount of the bond if their clients fail to show up for court and can't be found.
House Speaker Tom Murphy, D-Bremen, weighed in for the bill by arguing that bondsmen meet a public need by relieving pressure on local jails.
"We're still filling our jails up, and if you don't have somebody to let 'em out ... we're just going to have to (pay to) feed them longer," he said.