Philadelphia goes after bail deadbeats

    The City of Philadelphia is looking to collect millions of dollars owed from uncollected bail. Fugitives are being asked to come to court and pay up.

    By Aaron Moselle
    The City of Philadelphia is looking to collect millions of dollars owed from uncollected bail. Fugitives are being asked to come to court and pay up.

    When bail is posted, defendants pay only 10 percent of the bail amount in order to be released from jail awaiting trial. But if a defendant doesn’t show up in court, he or she is required to pay the remaining 90 percent of bail.

    The city says it’s owed as much as $1 billion in unpaid bail by about 200,000 scofflaws.

    Mayor Michael Nutter says the “Stand Up, Pay Up” program is meant to send scofflaws a message.

    “People think that this is a game. This is not a game. You want to play games, go to down to the Wachovia Center, not here in our city government. Not in our courts. Not anywhere else. We are as serious as a heart attack about collecting this money and we’re going to do what we need to do because we want our money.”

    Nutter says the city will work with people to pay off their debts.

    Judge Pamela Dembe is the president of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia. She says its unclear how much money the program will reap.

    “Nobody was really keeping track of who was paying the bail and whether they actually had the ability to be a surety – to pay the full amount if the person absconded. So that whole piece needs to be tightened up.”

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