If you happen to find yourself in a Pinellas jail needing bail following a Pinellas County arrest, there is good news for you. The Pinellas County Jail is now accepting credit and debit cards for bail of $750 or less. This is the first jail in the Tampa Bay area to offer this service. According to TampaBay.com there are only three other jails in the state that accept credit or debit cards.
According to Jim Coats, sheriff of Pinellas County, the program was put into place to lower the number of people stuck in jail while awaiting trial. The idea came out of a meeting of the minds between law enforcement, the county clerk, judges and public defenders offices. The limit was set at $750 despite the fact the sheriff wanted it set higher. The sheriff pushed for $1000, the state attorney for $500 so they split the difference.
The program will only apply to a small portion of people in jail as the $750 threshold will include mostly those in jail for minor charges. TampaBay.com looked at the number of people arrested in Pinellas County and sitting in jail on Wednesday. Of the 3,252 people in Pinellas County jail, only 74 would qualify to use their credit or debit cards in order to post bail. The article reported that just over 20 people have utilized the program since August 23.
Most of the crimes that involve a bail of $750 or less are traffic offenses or non-violent misdemeanors. The processing fee will be seven percent and the sheriff’s and clerk’s offices will get ten percent of that cut. The Pinellas County clerk and sheriff see the idea as a winner as will many people who are arrested and need to use credit to get out. The losers under the new plan will most likely be the bail bondsmen who were called on in the past to help these people get out of jail.