Let's Change The Outcome

Cash bail is an unfair and antiquated system

The concept of bail is to ensure that the accused will show up for court once they are released from jail. But for many defendants, bail bonds are set unreasonably high. Unable to raise bail, they sit in jail for months until their trial date rolls around.

An analysis by FiveThirtyEight confirms that the cash bail system is not only unfair, but often random. The research shows that granting of bail varies by jurisdiction — and often comes down to the whims of particular judges.


Bail may depend on the judge you draw

FiveThirtyEight, a news and political blog, examined bail patterns throughout New York City in 2017, in conjunction with The Legal Aid Society. Clients seeking assistance from Legal Aid had a wide range of outcomes. The majority were released with some amount of bail, some were released with no bail, and a small segment was denied bail.

But people facing felony charges in The Bronx or Brooklyn have a nearly 50/50 chance of being released without bail, while defendants in Manhattan had only about a 1 in 3 chance.

Luck plays a big part, namely the judge who presides at arraignment:

  • One judge in Queens frequently sets bail at $25,000 or more, with little regard for the person’s ability to pay.
  • Another judge in The Bronx routinely sets bail at zero dollars, requiring defendants instead to check in with the court.
  • One Manhattan judge denies bail in 25 percent of cases, far more than his peers.   

Bail is patently unfair to low-income defendants

Jail is supposed to be temporary quarters after an arrest. But on any given day, there are more than 450,000 Americans sitting in jail pretrial. Some were refused bail because they are a flight risk or pose a threat. But many were granted bail and cannot afford it. Not only are they kept away from their families, but they often lose their jobs or homes while they await trial.

This dynamic increases the pressure to plead guilty. A 2015 study found that Legal Aid clients who were held over in jail in lieu of bail were 34 percent more likely to enter a plea agreement or be convicted at trial.

Presumably there are similar variations in the courts of South Carolina and elsewhere. While judges should have leeway in setting bail, it should not be a complete crapshoot whether one is granted bail or whether the amount is reasonable. In fact, the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution specifically states that “excessive bail shall not be required.”

The movement to reform bail

The American Bar Association and even many prosecutors support less reliance on cash bail, especially for non-violent offenses. The alternatives (such as releasing defendants on their own recognizance or supervised release) would clear out the jails and provide a more level playing field to thousands of individuals who would otherwise be sitting in jail or agreeing to unfavorable plea deals.

Do you think that a cash bond is necessary to prevent “bail jumpers” or do you think the bail system needs to be reformed?



Recent Posts

How can a DUI conviction impact my commercial driver’s license?

On Behalf of Ryan Beasley Law | Apr 8, 2022 | Drunk Driving | Commercial vehicles are a common sight on the South Carolina roads. Trucks go to, from and through the state delivering and carting items that are vital to everyday life. This can include food, materials,...

What defenses are there for domestic violence charges?

Every relationship has times when you and your partner will disagree. An argument can feel very after both parties have had a chance to cool off than it does while it is happening. In some cases, a disagreement can get out of hand or misinterpreted, leaving both...

How a DUI can threaten your college education

College is an exciting time for young adults. Newfound independence often comes with having to make important decisions on your own, including whether to drink and drive. Unfortunately, millions of college students choose to drive while intoxicated. While you may be...

Bill could lead to harsher penalties after drug overdoses

In South Carolina and across the United States, opioids are garnering significant attention. This is understandable given the number of people who are having problems with these types of drugs. Specifically, fentanyl is drawing scrutiny from state and federal law...

Do you know the importance of jury selection in your case?

There’s a lot to consider when building your criminal defense. While you may want to work with prosecutors early on to try to mitigate the fallout from your case, and you certainly want to gather evidence that contradicts the prosecution’s case, you can’t neglect the...

Do You Need Legal Advice? Don’t Wait.

Get Help Now


Visit Our VIDEO CENTER To Find Out More