While the media may have you believing that ending cash bail means allowing anyone charged with a crime to go free, the matter is not so simple or so haphazardly employed.
Imagine if you are charged with a crime you did not commit based on a witness misidentifying you. You don’t think it can happen to you? Well, it can. Now, if you have money, you just pay your way out of jail and wait for the charges to be dropped because the case is not strong enough. But what if you do not have the money to pay for the bail? You then have a choice. You can either plead guilty to the crime to get the matter settled and be on about your life, or you can fight the charges, stay in jail, and hope the system works the way it is supposed to. Since you have little faith in that happening for you, you end up taking a plea deal to get out of jail. In other words, the poor can be leveraged into plea deals simply to avoid being stuck in jail.
Is that fair? Of course, not. While some folks want to make the rules fairer, others are convinced that society would fall apart if we did not leverage the poor into false confessions based on the deprivation of their freedom.
Identifying the Battle Lines
The question then becomes: If bail is not how we determine pretrial release then on what basis do we decide to allow someone out of jail while their trial is underway? Essentially, the decision would boil down to whether or not the judge allows bail at all. In the case of most violent felonies, the judge may deny bail. In the case of lesser crimes, the suspect may be free to go without paying any money at all.
State’s attorneys, however, believe that the standard of proof for denying bail to a defendant may be too high. This could result in the release of violent criminals who commit more violent crimes while they are bailed out. The problem for individuals who believe this is that criminals can already do this so long as they can afford to pay the bail.
The new measure would place a burden on prosecutors to submit a request for detention and provide evidence to the court as to why the defendant is a threat to public safety. The hearing would take place within 48 hours of the suspect’s arrest. One prosecutor said that the timetable is nearly impossible to meet. However, proponents of the revisions believe that detractors are simply peddling fear to manipulate an ignorant public into believing that the new provisions are soft on crime.
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