Cash bail plays a prominent role in the criminal justice system. The courts set bail to ensure that criminal defendants appear on hearing dates and comply with all bail restrictions. One of the objectives of bail is to ensure the community’s safety.
However, cash bail is a controversial topic, with some arguing that it disproportionately affects low-income individuals who cannot afford to pay the high bail amounts. Consequently, pretrial detention undermines the presumption of innocence principle.
In this post, we at Connecticut Bail Bonds Group explore the role of cash bail in enhancing community safety. We also discuss the drawbacks of cash bail and the conditions for pretrial release.
How Does Cash Bail Work?
After arresting someone in Connecticut, the police will take the arrestee into custody. Then, a bail hearing will take place, where the court will consider various factors before setting a bail amount. These factors include, among others:
- The severity of the offense
- The defendant’s ties to the community
- The defendant’s criminal history
- The likelihood that the defendant will flee
- The likelihood that the defendant will harm others
The defendant must pay the full bail amount upfront to secure their release from custody. This payment serves as security that the defendant will comply with all bail conditions, including their appearance at every hearing.
If the defendant fails to appear or commits another offense while out on bail, they will forfeit the money. On the other hand, if the defendant complies with all conditions, the court will return the bail money, regardless of the verdict and sentence.
The Purposes of Setting Cash Bail
In essence, an upfront bail payment serves as collateral that the defendant will appear in court. Granting bail gives the defendant a financial incentive to comply with the bail restrictions and attend all court hearings.
Pretrial detention and conditional release play several theoretical roles. However, whether the cash bail system effectively reaches these goals is under debate. The sections below outline the role of cash bail in safeguarding the community.
The Presumption of Innocence
In the criminal justice system, there is a presumption of innocence. In other words, it is the prosecution’s job to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone committed an offense. Under this principle, the state does not have the right to punish people without sufficient evidence of their guilt.
Cash bail and pretrial release are the courts’ mechanisms for following the presumption of innocence principle. Because a defendant is still innocent in the eyes of the law, they can post bail and get out of jail without suffering punishment. Bail is technically not a punishment because the courts repay the bail money if the defendant doesn’t commit an offense and follows all bail restrictions.
By requesting bail as security, the courts ensure that defendants return to court and don’t pose a risk to the community while awaiting trial.
Cash bail is reappearance assurance. In theory, defendants who pay bail are more likely to appear for their court dates, ensuring they don’t lose their money.
Before setting bail, the court will consider various factors to determine a defendant’s flight risk. For example, a defendant without employment or ties with the community may be more likely to leave the state to avoid prosecution. Bail amounts are also higher for defendants who have a history of failure to appear.
During bail hearings, the courts set various bail conditions that defendants must follow while out on bail. For example, the court may require that a defendant:
- Remains under a designated person’s supervision
- Stays away from the alleged victim and potential witnesses
- Refrains from possessing or using alcohol or other substances
- Refrains from possessing or using dangerous weapons
- Maintains employment
- Regularly checks in with the police
- Follows a curfew
These conditions aim to ensure the community’s safety while the defendant is out on bail. When a defendant commits an additional offense or fails to comply with these conditions, the court will issue a warrant for arrest. The defendant will also forfeit the money they posted as bail, which incentivizes them to comply with all bail restrictions.
The Case for Bail Reform
The use of cash bail is currently under scrutiny by critics who argue that it disproportionately impacts low-income defendants who cannot afford bail. As a result, many innocent people must remain in jail, resulting in lost wages, family separation, and housing challenges.
The detention of an innocent person goes against the presumption of innocence. The criminal justice system doesn’t follow this bedrock principle if an innocent person cannot afford bail and remains in custody.
Evidence suggests that cash bail is generally ineffective in ensuring defendants’ court appearance and compliance with bail restrictions. The argument is that a dangerous person doesn’t suddenly become a law-abiding citizen because they fear losing bail. The issuing of rearrest warrants is common due to defendants’ misconduct while out on bail.
Additionally, research shows that defendants who get out of jail on their own recognizance without paying bail have slightly higher court appearance rates than those who must pay bail.
Bail reform advocates aim to create a more equitable and effective system for defendants’ pretrial release. Some believe the criminal justice system should rely on risk assessment tools and supervised release instead of cash bail.
Do You Need a Bail Bond in Connecticut?
Do you have a loved one in jail on a criminal charge? At Connecticut Bail Bonds Group, we can post a surety bond on your family member’s behalf, securing their immediate release.
Using this service, you don’t need to use your life savings or secure a lien on your property to afford bail. You also don’t risk significant financial losses if your family member forfeits bail by failing to appear.
Contact us today to get your loved one out of jail so they can start working on their defense.