Bail app gives users head start in getting out of jail

Kyla Smith The Detroit News

Edward Poe was driving his black 2015 Chevrolet Malibu when he saw the flashing red and blue lights in his rearview mirror.

As he became uneasy anticipating the police pulling him over on Telegraph at Joy in Redford, Poe, 26, remembered to push a purple button within an app on his cell phone.

Before the police officer could walk to the driver’s side of the vehicle and ask for Poe’s license and registration, Banks Bail Bonds was notified.

“A representative stayed on the phone the entire time the police officer asked for my license and ran my plates,” the Taylor resident said. “Luckily I didn’t get a ticket or go to jail. The officer thought my taillight was out, but after a closer look, he realized it wasn’t.”

To help others such as Poe, who find themselves in possible legal trouble, Krystal Banks, owner of Banks Bail Bonds in Detroit, Lapeer and Port Huron, created a mobile app so people can post bail faster and easier.

The app is an example of how smartphones are becoming more deeply embedded in all aspects of users’ lives. From shopping to accessing news to banking to staying connected, smartphones are becoming a part of every aspect of our lives. Now, it’s even finding a use in the criminal justice system.

Here is how the Banks Bail Bonds app works: When a person is pulled over by the police they can push a button within the app and a bail bondsman will be notified. If the person is arrested, the bondsman will notify the user’s emergency contacts and post bail.

The free app can be downloaded through the iTunes store or Google Play and can store up to four emergency contacts. The app is the only one like it being offered in Michigan.

“The app is for everyone. No one expects to get arrested or go to jail, but sometimes people find themselves in questionable situations,” said Banks, who lives in Roseville. “When that happens people don’t know what resources to use, where or who to turn to.”

Jeff Kirkpatrick, executive vice president of the Professional Bail Bonds Agents of the United States, sees bail bonds apps as a way to help manage business.

“Seeing as people are moving away from the Yellow Pages and more to social media, apps like these have become more popular,” said Kirkpatrick, who owns Lodise Bail Bonds in Jackson. “I don’t think apps will help agencies get more business because the industry as a whole already does a significant amount of service for the justice system, and I think the new technology will just make that easier.”

With the Banks Bail Bonds app, users can pay tickets, connect with local attorneys and courts, search for inmates in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties and find a notary. There is also a panic button that automatically dials the persons’ emergency contacts if their whereabouts can’t be verified or if they are in a dangerous situation.

“I think people want to arm themselves and take extra precautions because of the spike in violence all over the world and locally,” Banks said.

“You might be straight-laced, but your friends could be the ones that get you in trouble and now you are in jail.”

The app launches as the number of arrests in the state of Michigan are down from 260,402 in 2014 to 256,306 in 2015, according to the Michigan State Police. However, studies show low-risk defendants who couldn’t post bail and stayed two to three days longer in jail are 40 percent more likely to commit new crimes before trial, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

When William Jones of Detroit was arrested in 2011 for alleged drug possession he had to wait for more than four hours in the Wayne County jail before his mother was able to reach A-1 Bail Bonds and post his bail.

“There weren’t any apps back then. When you are arrested your phone is taken away, you only have one phone call and you would pray that the person you called would take the collect call,” Jones said. “I think an app like this is great because you can store more than one emergency contact.”

Banks said if people don’t have the app and they find themselves in a life-threatening situation where they are unable to get to the police, Banks suggests using social media.

“Facebook live is one of the best platforms someone can have if they are in trouble,” she said. “Everything is recorded and someone is likely to see it.”

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Twitter: @kylasmith525