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Bail insurance would “empower” people to avoid taking plea deals

Will bail insurance rescue those who can't afford bail?
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Will bail insurance rescue those who can't afford bail?

The Next Idea

If you’re arrested and charged with a crime, you’ll likely be asked to “post bail.” Bail is the money that a defendant hands over to the court in order to be released from custody until their trial.

So, if you don’t have a huge bank account, where are you supposed to find, say, $50,000? Traditionally, you go to a bail bondsman.

Judd Grutman has a different idea in mind.

Grutman, who got his law degree from the University of Michigan, joined The Next Idea to discuss Vonzella, a company he’s developing, which would be a change to the current bail system.

Listen below for the entire conversation.

On bail insurance

The current bail system often forces those accused of a crime to seek out a bail bondsman, who take a percentage out from the bail payment. Many can’t afford bail, so they sit in jail. “There are 500,000 people in this country sitting each day in jail simply because they can’t make bail,” said Grutman.

Grutman sat in on a number of arraignments in the 36th District Court in Detroit. “You don’t need an economics degree or any advanced degree really to see that it’s obvious that the bail amounts that are being set are just not attainable for people,” he said. “A lot of people just get stuck in jail.”

Enter bail insurance. “We’re basically treating being arrested like a fire, a theft, or a car accident,” said Grutman. “What that means is that if you get arrested, we’d help you make bail.” The company, like other forms of insurance, would charge a monthly premium to help cover their costs.

On how it would improve the bail system

Bail insurance “would empower people to know that they can make bail,” said Grutman. “And that’s a big deal because what’s happening now is bail being used a major point of leverage to get plea deals out of people. So if people knew that they could pay bail in a vulnerable period of time in their lives, it would make a big difference.” As a result, maintains Grutman, people falsely accused of a crime would not take a plea deal out of fear that they couldn’t pay bail.

On when we can expect to buy in

Grutman is ready to launch a product, he said, but Michigan’s insurance regulations have caused him to hit a snag. “Michigan is particularly difficult because of the financial barriers of entry to selling and advertising insurance,” he said. “We’re working on ways to bring pilots to cities so that we can test the model and prove to insurance carriers that we’re worth partnering with.”

Stateside’s conversation with Judd Grutman, founder of Vonzella.

The Next Idea is Michigan Radio’s project devoted to new innovations and ideas that will change our state.

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