Cash Bail System is Under Attack
The right to post bail in order to free someone from being detained while they await trial is a fundamental right of all Americans. Bail is written in our constitution. It has also become part of our culture, with bail hearings and bondsmen taking center stage in movies and TV. But the system of how bail is administered is under attack, with many claiming that it violates the constitution.
The Problem With Cash Bail
In most cases, bail is set higher depending on the crime the person is charged with, or the risk that the person will fail to appear for trial. This seems to make sense—the bigger a risk someone is to flee, the higher bail should be set to make them think twice before they run.
However, this system fails to take into account a suspect’s ability to pay the bail amount. As a result, people with money tend to have an easier time posting bond, and people without means tend to be unable to meet bond requirements. A movement is underway nationally to reform the bail system to force judges to consider the financial means of a Defendant when setting bail amounts.
Critics of the system say that the current bail system is effectively jailing people because they cannot pay. People are presumed innocent until proven guilty, making it even more important that all suspects have equal access to bail.
Sitting in Jail Causes Community Problems
Lack of access to bail is not just a constitutional problem, but a community problem. Jails are becoming overcrowded in areas where people are unable to meet even modest bail amounts, and people who are jailed before trial often lose ties to their community; they may lose jobs, be unable to care for children, or lose leases for apartments they live in.
When and if they are released, they then end up in worse shape than they started, and are more likely to recommit criminal offenses. Critics also say that cash bail disproportionately affects minorities and people of color.
People being held in jail are more likely to accept a plea deal, even if they are innocent, just to get themselves out of county jail. If they are innocent, they are also less able to participate in their own defense, being unable to gather paperwork, or access witnesses.
Some, But Not Many Changes
In the face of lawsuits challenging bail, some states have turned to laws that allow those charged with lower level, or non-violent crimes, to be released without bail, at a judge’s discretion. Advocates say people being held for shoplifting, minor drug charges, or trespassing, should be able to get back to their normal lives while they await trial.
Florida has been slow to adopt bail reform. Cash bail remains the norm, despite the fact that Florida’s constitution requires that suspects or defendants be released pretrial on “reasonable conditions.”
If you have been arrested or charged with a crime of any type, we can help at all stages of your criminal case. Contact the Miami criminal attorneys at Velasquez & Associates P.A. today with any questions you may have.