Missouri’s Supreme Court chief justice announced new rules to take effect July 1 restricting courts from requiring bail as a condition of pretrial release, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Based on the high court’s survey of judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, law professors and court officials, the court decided on new rules that start with the presumption that judges will not set any bail amount. Judges still will have discretion to assess bail, but “only if necessary” and only high enough to “ensure safety or the defendant’s appearance,” Chief Justice Zel Fischer said in his annual state of the judiciary address.
Fischer said too many people who were arrested couldn’t afford bail for even low-level offenses. “Though presumed innocent, they lose their jobs, cannot support their families and are more likely to reoffend,” he said. The new plan fits into a broader criminal-justice reform push in the state. In his State of the State address three weeks ago, Gov. Mike Parson called for reforms, rather than an expansion, of Missouri’s prison system. See also today’s Top Story: Will Mass Bail Out Movement Prod Reforms?