Rabbi Sigal Asher presents us with the mystery of A., who posted bail for her son. The police promised her she could get the money back. She borrowed money from friends but did not manage to get it back. And this is where our detective story begins: we tried to find out along with her how you get refunded for bail money. Enter the bureaucratic maze of the police, as experienced by the common citizen.
About a year ago, in December 2012, A.’s soldier son had a free evening from the army. While he was out partying, the group of soldiers he was in got into a fight with another group. They were arrested and on Saturday night brought before a judge who ruled they would be released on bail. The parents had to borrow money from relatives to pay the bail, which the father deposited in cash in the postal bank branch near his house and the son was released. The bail form said “at the end of 180 days the monetary bail expires. Upon its expiration you are entitled to be refunded for the entire amount posted.” It added: “Notice thereof will be sent to the beneficiary’s address, automatically.”
You cannot get bail money refunded
Therefore, at the beginning of June 2013 A. should have received in the mail notice of the possibility of being refunded for the bail money. The 180 days passed and no such notice arrived in the mail. But since no other crime had been committed, we knew that the bail money could be refunded, and this is where our detective story begins…
The first place we looked was on the Internet. Naïvely we thought that since A.’s son was not the first person entitled to be refunded for the bail money posted for him, it would be easy to find the procedure explaining how to get refunded. But no such procedure was found. Where do we go then?
Should we go to the Petach Tikva police, where he was arrested, or to Rishon Letzion, where he was brought before the judge on Saturday night? Should the refund be received from the police, because it was paid to the police, or from the court, which ruled that the bail be paid?
We consulted a lawyer from the Public Defender’s office, who represented A.’s son after his arrest, and asked him what the procedure was to be refunded for bail after 180 days. He said we had to go physically to the Petach Tikva court, to the arrests office on the ground floor and fill out a form of “application to refund monetary deposit.” After filling out the form we must get the police station’s stamp of approval to execute the refund and submit the form to the Petach Tikva Magistrate Court.
In order to make sure that A., who works to support her family during the court’s business hours, would not lose days of work for nothing, we decided to check with the court whether that was indeed the procedure. We sent a letter to the Petach Tikva Magistrate’s Court and the response we received was that the refund should be received from the Petach Tikva police. The letter came with a court stamp and we took it to the Petach Tikva police. At the police station the investigation officer approved receipt of the money in his handwriting. At this point we had in our hands approval from the court and approval from the police that we could receive the money. Great! But… How exactly do you get the money?
The investigation officer said you could get the money at the postal bank but the postal bank did not know what we were talking about. We were referred to the Israeli Postal Service’s legal department, which also did not know the answer to our question.
After dozens of phone calls, faxes and letters that took several months, in which we still did not understand how A. could get her money back, we consulted a lawyer who works in our organization who said: “You can only get the money by asking the police commissioner’s office.” It sounded weird but we had to try. We asked the police commissioner’s office. After the matter was transferred from one party to another, it was given to an officer who began looking into it. A few weeks later he said he had located the source of the problem: the technology had changed and that is why there were problems in the procedure of refunding the bail. Now, he promised, it should be much simpler, through a computerized confirmation transferred to the postal bank computer.
When I asked what the procedure was it turned out there was no particular form that needed to be filled to ask for a refund of bail. One day I received notice from that officer who said that A.’s son could go to the postal bank near his house and get the money there. Just to be sure I asked the post office. There, at first they did not know what I was talking about but on repeat examination they confirmed that there was an order to refund his money. In late October, almost five months after the date given for receiving the refund of the bail, the money was received.
And we remain with many questions:
- Why does the police website have a clear explanation how to pay bail but no explanation how to get it back?
- Why does a person who paid bail and deserves a refund have to go through such torment?
- How many people have not managed to get their money back? And what do the police/courts to do with that money?
- We asked the police the first question and are still waiting for an answer.