Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper is among judges who usually require defendants to post cash bonds rather than surety bonds.
Harper does so, in part, because the money is available in the end to help cover the various costs associated with the case.
The 10 percent paid for a surety bond is lost to a bail bondsman, she said.
Legislation pitched downstate would address the concern by bringing money back to the local level if a defendant flees and a surety bond is forfeited.
Gary resident Herb Smith Jr., who spent 21 years as a bail bondsman before retiring from the business in 2006, said he wrote the proposal that is pending before a legislative study committee.
The proposed bill says if a defendant disappears after posting a surety bond and the bail bondsman is unable to find the individual, the judge can forfeit on the bond and collect 80 percent of the money to be shared by the court, public defender, sheriff, clerk and to cover electronic monitoring costs, Smith said. The remaining 20 percent would go to the state Common School Fund, he said.
Forfeited bond money is currently supposed to go to the county extradition fund and to the sheriff pension fund, Smith said.
"I think it's more valuable the money stays locally," he said.
State Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, said he favors making more money available for local courts.
But he does not yet know enough about the proposed legislation to say whether he supports it. There is opposition among some bail bondsman, he said.
Repeated attempts to secure comment from local bail agents and the Indiana Surety Bail Agents Association were unsuccessful.
Harper said another advantage to using a cash bond is that defendants get their money back in full if a case is dismissed or if they are acquitted, which is not the case with surety bonds.
"More importantly, I think cash bonds get people to court," she said. "People have an investment in their case."
Porter Superior Court Judge David Chidester, who relies nearly exclusively on cash bonds and has a court appearance rate of 88 to 95 percent, said he has rarely seen a bail agent return a defendant to custody as is promoted as the benefit of a surety bond.
"It is all receipt of bail money without any promise of action," he said.
Chidester said under the current statutory scheme, it is very difficult to forfeit a surety bail bond and the money does not stay locally.
"Again, it's a ruse obtained by bail agents through a strong and influential lobby who cozy up to legislators," he said of the surety bond approach.