Category Archives: Bail

Federal Legislation to End Cash Bail

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Excellent news article by  of The Intercept discusses how Senator Bernie Sanders introduced legislation to end money bail on the federal level and create incentives for states to follow suit.

According to  , The No Money Bail Act is the latest example of the push from the Democrats to tackle criminal justice reform. It would prohibit money bail in federal criminal cases, provide grants to states that wish to implement alternate pretrial systems, and withhold grant funding from states that continue using cash bail systems.

Additionally, the bail reform “requires a study three years after implementation to ensure the new alternate systems are also not leading to disparate detentions rates,” according to a summary of the bill provided by Sanders’s office.

“It has always been clear that we have separate criminal justice systems in this country for the poor and for the rich,” the summary reads. “A wealthy person charged with a serious crime may get an ankle monitor and told not to leave the country; a poor person charged with a misdemeanor may sit in a jail cell. And this disproportionately affects minorities — fifty percent of all pretrial detainees are Black or Latino.”

In a statement accompanying the release of his bill, Sanders said the following:

“Poverty is not a crime and hundreds of thousands of Americans, convicted of nothing, should not be in jail today because they cannot afford cash bail. In the year 2018, in the United States, we should not continue having a ‘debtor prison’ system. Our destructive and unjust cash bail process is part of our broken criminal justice system – and must be ended.”

Also according to , the idea of eliminating money bail is controversial, even among Democrats, so it is unlikely that the legislation will soon be enacted into law. Indeed, Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., introduced a similar measure in the House in 2016 and 2017, but his bills gained little traction. Last year, Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., introduced a measure to encourage states to reform bail practices, though they did not go as far as calling to eliminate cash bail on the federal level.

Still, these efforts represent a growing sense of urgency among lawmakers to address the racial disparities that plague the criminal justice system. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer last month introduced a bill to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, removing the drug from the Controlled Substances Act. The House passed a tepid prison reform bill that was pushed by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner in May, and the Senate has introduced similar legislation.

For-profit companies are “making a fortune” off indigent defendants, according to the summary of the Sanders bill. Indeed, the for-profit bail industry makes between $1.4 billion and $2.4 billion a year, the American Civil Liberties Union wrote in a 2017 report. An inability to afford bail leaves defendants across the country languishing in pretrial detention bars for extended periods of time; in 2014, about 60 percent of people in U.S. jails had not been convicted of a crime, the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics reported.

“Pretrial detention should be based on whether or not someone truly should not be freed before their trial,” the summary continued. “It should not depend on how much money they have, or what kind of mood the judge is in on a given day, or even what judge the case happens to come before. We also must insure that jurisdictions do not eliminate cash bail but find pretexts to continue unfairly locking people up before trial.”

State and local governments have made similar efforts in recent years. New Jersey has been at the forefront of the bail reform movement, largely eliminating its cash bail system last year. District attorneys in Brooklyn and Manhattan in January ordered prosecutors not to request bail in most misdemeanor cases. And Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner also fulfilled one of his high-profile campaign promises when he announced an end of cash bail requirements for low-level offenses in February.

My opinion? The movement to end cash bail seems to be gaining momentum. If so, it’d eliminate a significant hurdle in gaining justice for defendants facing criminal charges.

California Eliminates Cash Bail

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Great article by Madison Park and Cheri Mossburg of CNN news covers how California will end the cash bail system in a sweeping reform for the state. Rather than requiring defendants to pay in order to be released before trial, their release will hinge on an assessment of their risk to public safety.

On Tuesday, the California Money Bail Reform Act, also known as Senate Bill 10, passed in the State Senate with a vote of 26-12, and the General Assembly by 42-31.
“SB 10 puts all Californians on equal footing before the law and makes public safety the only consideration in pretrial detention. This critical reform is long overdue,” said Toni Atkins, Senate president pro tempore.
“Today, California reforms its bail system so that rich and poor alike are treated fairly,” Gov. Jerry Brown said in a statement.
Brown signed the bill Tuesday, and the new law goes into effect October 1, 2019. California is the first state to eliminate money bail completely, according to the Pretrial Justice Institute, an organization that advocates for pretrial justice reform.
According to reporter Madison Park, critics have long contended that the money bail system perpetuates inequality. While some people are able to quickly get out of jail by posting bail, people who aren’t able to afford it sit in jail until the court takes action, or until they work with a bail bond agent to secure their freedom, which can leave them in debt.
“Abolishing money bail and replacing it with a risk-based system will enhance justice and safety. For too long, our system has allowed the wealthy to purchase their freedom regardless of their risk, while the poor who pose no danger languish in jail,” said Assemblymember Rob Bonta, one the lawmakers who introduced the bill, in a statement.
Under the new law, a pretrial assessment would be done by either court employees or a local public agency that has been contracted to determine a defendant’s risk. That entity would assess the likelihood that the person will not appear in court or commit a new crime while released, and would make a recommendation for conditions of release. The defendant will be assessed as high, medium or low risk. A person who is deemed as high risk, including those arrested for violent felonies, will not be released.
Surprisingly, the ACLU in California expressed disappointment over the bill, saying it “is not the model for pretrial justice and racial equity that California should strive for.”
“It cannot guarantee a substantial reduction in the number of Californians detained while awaiting trial, nor does it sufficiently address racial bias in pretrial decision making,” said the three executive directors of the California ACLU affiliates, Abdi Soltani (Northern California), Hector Villagra (Southern California) and Norma Chávez Peterson (San Diego & Imperial Counties). “Indeed, key provisions of the new law create significant new risks and problems.”
Indeed, the ACLU pulled its support for the bill earlier this month as the it underwent changes in the state legislature.
My opinion? This is a bold, progressive step. The subject of cash bail has always been a cantankerous subject which underscores how justice applies to the privileged vs. the non-privileged. For the underprivileged, defendants who cannot afford to pay bail are more likely to plead guilty to criminal charges. Jail is a terrible place, and getting out as soon as possible is an overwhelming desire for most defendants who find themselves there. There’s no justice in pleading guilty to crimes that we would otherwise not plead guilty to simply to get out of jail.
Let’s wait and see how California does. The success of  California Money Bail Reform Act could determine whether other states adopt similar legislation.
Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member face criminal charges and are held in jail pending the outcome of the case. Chances are, a competent attorney can persuade the judge to lower the bail or even release the defendant without bail on their personal recognizance. For more information, please read my Legal Guide titled, “Making Bail.”

Bounty Hunters & Bondsmen

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In Applegate v. Lucky Bail Bonds, the WA Court of Appeals held a bail bondsman may forcibly enter another party’s land and/or house if he has reasonably believes the fugitive is there.

The appeal arises from a civil case brought by appellant Ron Applegate against respondent Lucky Bail Bonds Inc. and its agents. Lucky posted bail for Applegate’s daughter, Elizabeth, on her shoplifting charges. Elizabeth failed to appear for court dates. Lucky’s agents went to Applegate’s rural property at night in search of Elizabeth. They found her in Applegate’s residence, but only after getting into a shoving match with Applegate and allegedly entering his  residence without permission. During the struggle, bail bonds agents broke several of Applegate’s ribs. He filed suit alleging assault, trespass, and other causes of action.

Applegate’s civil cause of action went to a jury trial in superior court. The jury rendered a verdict in favor of Lucky Bail Bonds.

On appeal, Applegate argued that under the Restatement of Torts (Second), bondsmen do not have a privilege to enter the private dwelling of a third party, and that the court’s admission of certain jury instructions was error.

The court reviewed RCW 18.185, which pertains to “Bail Bond Agents.” The statute defines a bail bond recovery agent as “a person who is under contract with a bail bond agent to receive compensation. . . for locating, apprehending, and surrendering a fugitive criminal defendant for whom a bail bond has been posted.” The statute requires recovery agents to be trained, tested, and licensed.

The court also reviewed RCW 18.185.270(1), which states that bail bond recovery agent on a recapture mission must carry a copy of the contract pertaining to the individual fugitive and, if requested, must present the copy to “the fugitive criminal defendant, the owner or manager of the property in which the agent entered in order to locate or apprehend the fugitive, other residents, if any, of the residence in which the agent entered in order to locate or apprehend the fugitive, and to the local law enforcement agency or officer.”

Applegate argued that the statute does not specifically authorize a bondsman’s encounters with third parties on their property and in their dwellings, and that the trial court’s jury instructions submitted at trial misstated the law and endorsed the actions of “rogue bounty hunters.”

Contrary to his argument, the Court of Appeals ruled that the jury instructions did not allow the jury to condone lawless behavior by rogue bounty hunters. If the jurors had believed the agents unreasonably attacked Applegate or broke into his home without reason to believe Elizabeth was there, the instructions required them to find that the agents exceeded the privilege and were acting unlawfully.” With that the Court of Appeals concluded the jury instructions did not misstate the law.

Finally, the Court ruled that the jury instructions for criminal trespass under RCW 4.24.630 were lawful and not erroneous. it reasoned that under the criminal trespass statute, the plaintiff must prove wrongful injury to property. An injury that is wrongful can be committed only by a person who “lacks authorization” so to act. Here, the bail bondsmen had a privilege to enter Applegate’s property. Therefore, they did not “lack authorization” under the statute.

My opinion? Getting bailed out of jail is a luxury, however, it carries obligations that many defendants should be aware of. Worst-case scenario, bail bond companies can deploy bounty hunters to seek defendants who abscond their responsibilities. Period. Therefore, defendants should expect a knock on their front doors – and the front doors of their loved ones – if bounty hunters get involved.

Is Cash Bail Effective?

Three research studies released this month further confirm the ineffective, discriminatory, and unsafe influence of money bail in U.S. criminal justice systems.

In The Heavy Costs of High Bail: Evidence from Judge Randomization, a Columbia Law and Economics Working Paper by Arpit Gupta, Christopher Hansman, and Ethan Frenchman, describes how assigning money bail to people accused of crime in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh increases the likelihood of conviction by 12% and increases recidivism by 4%. Ultimately, the authors found that the use of money bail is not effective – it “does not seem to increase the probability that a defendant appears at trial,” and actually makes us all less safe.

In her University of Pennsylvania Law School Working Paper, Distortion of Justice: How the Inability to Pay Bail Affects Case Outcomes, Megan Stevenson reports that people arrested for crimes in Philadelphia and detained due to their inability to pay money bail face up to a 30% increase in convictions—driven by increased guilty pleas—and an additional 18 months of incarceration compared to those who are able to afford bail.

Finally, the Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) released an analysis of national data that gives context to the Columbia and University of Pennsylvania papers. In Detaining the Poor: How money bail perpetuates an endless cycle of poverty and jail time, PPI found that “most of the people who are unable to meet bail fall into the poorest third of society.” Their median income – only $15,109 prior to incarceration – was less than half of the income of non-incarcerated people, and yet the median bail amount nationally is almost a full year’s income for the typical person unable to post a bail bond. Money bail, PPI concludes, results in the unnecessary and excessive detention of poor people, essentially jailing people for their poverty.

This research highlights what legislators, practitioners, and taxpayers are increasingly recognizing: money bail doesn’t work, is discriminatory, and makes communities less safe.

Cherise Fanno Burdeen, executive director of the Pretrial Justice Institute released this statement about the research:

“With these recent research findings, there should no longer be any doubt, anywhere, that money bail unfairly punishes the poor while also making everyone less safe. Our 3DaysCount campaign calls for replacing the broken money bail system with commonsense and proven solutions to support people being successful on pretrial release.”

Congressman Ted Lieu, sponsor of the No Money Bail Act of 2016, said the following:

“Our nation must stop criminalizing poverty, and these new studies provide crucial data proving that being poor increases your chance of jail time and conviction.  This kind of research is crucial to supporting the No Money Bail Act of 2016, which would eliminate the use of money bail at the federal level and incentivize states to end the use of bail through the withholding of federal grants. We can no longer stand by in good conscience while Americans, presumed innocent, are deprived of their liberty because they can’t afford bail. Justice in America should not be bought and paid for.”

Additionally, judicial leaders across the nation joined together to call attention to these findings.Chief Justice W. Scott Bales, Arizona Supreme Court; Chief Justice Patricia Breckenridge, Missouri Supreme Court; Chief Justice E. James Burke, Wyoming Supreme Court; Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye California Supreme Court;  Justice Charles W. Daniels, New Mexico Supreme Court; Chief Justice Matthew B. Durrant,Utah Supreme Court; Chief Judge Nan G. Nash, Second Judicial District, New Mexico;Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald, Supreme Court of Hawaii; and Chief Justice Robert J. Torres, Jr., Supreme Court of Guam issued the following statement:

“People should not be held in jail pending the disposition of charges merely because they are poor and cannot afford bail.  Recent research suggests that we can identify better ways to make release decisions that will treat people fairly, protect the public, and ensure court appearances.”

My opinion? This national effort is gratifying. Few people understand how incarceration negatively affects job opportunities, families and ability mental/emotional wellness. In my Legal Guide titled, “Making Bail,” I discuss how one of the greatest services a competent defense attorney can do for their clients is assist in getting them released from jail as soon as possible on either a reduced bail amount which is lower than the Prosecutor’s recommendations or that the defendant be released without bail altogether.

One opportunity to lower/rescind bail is at the defendant’s first appearance or arraignment. Another opportunity exists through a Bail Review Hearing.

Under CrR 3.2, judges must review the nature of the pending criminal charges, a defendant’s prior criminal history, their history of failing to appear at past court hearings, and their ties to the community (property ownership, employment, family, school, etc). Factoring all of this, the judge decides whether to lower bail or release the defendant altogether.

Also, CrR 3.2 allows release of defendants to the care of willing and responsible members of the community, including family members. Also, judges may be persuaded to impose other pretrial release conditions such as mandatory curfews, staying away from businesses serving alcohol. Almost everything is negotiable.

My opinion? Hire a competent defense attorney to assist this endeavor. Getting out of jail as soon as possible saves people’s careers, maintains stability in the family and allows your defense attorney more time to either resolve the case or prepare for trial. Good luck!