McGrath: Installment Bail Payment System Acceptable
HELENA – In a formal opinion released Thursday, Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath held that the Montana Constitution and Montana laws allow a municipal court judge to release a defendant under a bail bond that is paid in installments.
Bozeman City Attorney Paul Luwe requested the opinion. Bozeman’s municipal courts use a “time-pay” bail bond system, under which the court sets a bail amount and the defendant may make bail payments in installments. The court sets the schedule for the installments and their amount so the full bail is paid prior to the defendant’s trial.
McGrath’s opinion found that the installment payment system promotes the Montana Constitution’s policy of providing bail for “sufficient sureties.”
McGrath also held that the payment system satisfies a number of Montana codes related to bail.
- It meets the court’s obligation to release a defendant under reasonable conditions to ensure the defendant’s appearance at trial while protecting the community.
- The amount of bail in question is not oppressive.
- The plan falls within a court’s discretion to accept cash or other personal property in lieu of cash. McGrath noted that statute does not specify a specific amount of cash for a specific offense or a time period in which it must be paid.
An attorney general’s opinion carries the weight of law unless a court overturns it or the Legislature modifies the laws involved.