We recently discussed changes to bond laws in Connecticut, which follow the bail reform trends sweeping across much of the country. A new law signed in California now leads the states in bail reform, as it will effectively eliminate all cash bail as of October 2019. Washington, D.C., currently has a cashless bail system, though no other states have taken this step yet.
California’s governor, Jerry Brown, first expressed concern about the state’s cash bail system in 1979, when he noted in a speech that the system clearly favored the wealthy over the poor. Forty years later, Governor Brown signed this bill into law, hoping to create a system in which the “rich and poor alike are treated fairly.“
Under the traditional cash bail system, upon an arrest, a judge has the discretion to set an amount that a defendant must pay to be released from jail while they await trial. Defendants who can pay the amount can go home or work for the duration of their cases. Defendants who cannot afford to pay bail must remain behind bars—sometimes for months, as criminal cases can drag out. This often results in poor defendants accused of minor offenses spending months in jail, while wealthier defendants accused of more serious crimes go free.
Once the law takes effect, no criminal courts in California will order cash bail for any offense. Instead, each criminal court will use an algorithm to determine whether to release or hold each particular defendant. The factors in the algorithm include:
- The severity of the charge
- The likelihood that the defendant is a flight risk
- The risk of recidivism during the pending case
- The risk of harm to the community
Courts will immediately release the majority of defendants charged with nonviolent misdemeanors. Courts will have two options for everyone else—let them go home or keep them in jail. Setting cash bail is no longer an option.
Overview of Connecticut Bail
While Connecticut did not completely eliminate cash bail, the 2017 state law did limit the discretion of judges to set cash bail in certain situations. For example, in misdemeanor cases, judges can only set cash bail when a charge involves family violence or when there is a reason to believe a defendant poses a threat or is a particular flight risk. A defendant who cannot afford bail will get a bail hearing after two weeks instead of 30 days. Furthermore, judges cannot require that a defendant pay bail in cash only, but courts must accept guarantees from bondsmen for a defendant’s release.
Discuss Your Case With Our Connecticut, Criminal Defense Lawyers Right Away
At Koffsky & Felsen, LLC, we know that bail reform trends will continue to result in changes to criminal laws in Connecticut and across the United States. After an arrest, please call our experienced criminal defense attorneys at (203) 327-1500 or contact us online to discuss how we can help at every stage of your case.