State Chief Justices Call for Evidence-Based Assessments in Setting Bail


The Conference of Chief Justices is calling for states to overhaul the way their court systems make bail determinations for pretrial defendants, reports Legal Times. Instead of simply relying on a bond schedule, judges reviewing new arrests should use an evidence-based assessment of whether the defendant will be a danger to the community and is likely to show up at court dates, says a resolution approved by the group at its mid-year meeting.

Judges should also start with the presumption that defendants in non-violent cases would get a non-bond pretrial release unless proven they would be a danger or flight risk, which could avoid many of the problems cited in a recent Conference of State Court Administrators policy paper. The paper describes how judges make thousands of decisions each day that have significant impact on low-income defendants, who sometimes cannot afford to pay a bond even on the most minor charges and instead wait in jail awaiting trial for longer periods than their potential sentences. Higher bonds can also mean higher costs for local communities, which must pay for jailing pretrial detainees often needlessly, the paper says.

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