Activists, lawmakers, and judges of all political stripes have realized that America’s cash bail system has created an uneven playing field for criminal defendants.
Essentially, if you can’t afford to pay your bail, you can languish in jail, you can lose your home, your job, and your children, and you will not be able to build the defense that those with better resources can. These outcomes have happened far too often to low-income people, even those facing non-violent misdemeanor charges.
In fact, the majority of people locked up in local jails have not been convicted of a crime. They are just waiting for their day in court, all because they did not want to pay a non-refundable amount to a bail bondsman or accept a plea deal that could leave them with a criminal record.
California lawmakers passed a bill last year making the state the first in the nation to eliminate the cash bail system. Now, several states, counties, and cities are moving forward on their own efforts.
While the above cases are all good news for the cause that people receive equal treatment under the law, a lot of work remains in the vast majority of states. For now, burdensome bail amounts remain the norm in most jurisdictions.
This only reinforces the need for a qualified, experienced criminal defense lawyer if you are arrested. Before agreeing to a plea deal that may have many hidden consequences, you should always discuss your case with a lawyer.