The issue of bond—also commonly known as bail—has been a hot topic for criminal justice reformers in the United States, and Connecticut is no different. Connecticut is one of many states that recently underwent an overhaul of the bond system, with a new law passed and taking effect last year in 2017. The previous bail system highly favored individuals who could afford to pay cash bonds, while many defendants remained behind bars because they didn’t have the money to pay, and not necessarily due to the severity of their charges or risks to the community. The new laws help to avoid criminalizing poverty and lessen the effects of an arrest on a defendant for a relatively minor offense.
Limiting Bond for Misdemeanor Offenses
The first major change to the law limits setting cash bail for individuals arrested for misdemeanor crimes (crimes punishable by less than one year in jail), except in limited circumstances. Research indicates that 75 percent of charges brought in the U.S. are misdemeanors, so such a change will affect a significant number of defendants. A court can only set cash bail in the following situations:
- The charged offense involved family violence
- The court believes the defendant is a flight risk and may not show up for court without paying bond
- The court believes the defendant is a danger to others or themselves
If none of the above are true, police should release the defendant with a court date and summons. In the event the court does set bail which a defendant cannot pay, the defendant has a right to a bail hearing after 14 days. This is substantially shorter than the previous period of 30 days. It is critical to have an experienced lawyer representing you who can argue for your release if you cannot pay bail.
No Cash-Only Bail
Prior to the change of law, courts could set exorbitant amounts of bail, requiring that the defendant paid in cash only. This effectively denied the defendant bail, since it is unrealistic for most defendants to come up with hundreds of thousands of dollars or even one million dollars in cash on the spot. Now, the court must set a bond that a bondsman can guarantee. This improves defendants’ chances of making bond, so they don’t sit behind bars for the duration of their case.
Even with the new laws, bond hearings are still a critical stage of any criminal proceedings. If you must pay a high bond, it can take away resources needed to defend against your charges, which can include investigators, experts, and attorney’s fees. It can also subtract from money needed to pay court-imposed fines, restitution, probation or diversionary program fees, court costs, and more. You should always have a highly experienced defense attorney ready to advocate for lower bond or to eliminate bond completely in your case. We regularly argue that other conditions can take the place of money bonds, including GPS, home confinement, substance abuse treatment and imposing a curfew, among others.
Consult with Our Connecticut Criminal Defense Law Firm Right Away
Bond hearings are only one aspect of a criminal case for which you should always have the help of a lawyer. At Koffsky & Felsen, LLC, we have extensive experience handling criminal cases at both the Connecticut and federal level. Call (203) 327-1500 or contact us online to discuss a potential case.