In areas like no-fault divorce, California has been on the cutting edge of U.S. legal developments. Recently, lawmakers in the Golden State abolished the state’s cash bail system. What does that mean for Brainerd lawyers as they work to release clients from jail?
California lawmakers had been exploring changes for years. In fact, in a 1979 speech, Governor Jerry Brown declared that the cash bail system was biased against poor people. Then, after a court declared the state’s current system unconstitutional earlier in 2018, study turned to action. “Our path to a more just criminal justice system is not complete, but today it made a transformational shift away from valuing private wealth and toward protecting public safety,” said State Sen. Robert Herzberg, who co-sponsored the bill.
Not everyone is happy. The American Civil Liberties Union, which originally supported the initiative, pulled its support because “this bill is too heavily weighted toward detention and does not have sufficient safeguards to ensure that racial justice is provided.” Additionally, the Golden State Bail Agents Association said it would probably sue to stop the law.
Citation in Lieu of Arrest
The Eighth Amendment states that reasonable bail must be available in all criminal cases. This brief edict can be interpreted in one of two ways. For many, the Eighth Amendment means that defendants should be locked up before trial unless there is good reason to do otherwise. Fortunately for Brainerd lawyers, Minnesota law basically follows the California view. As a result, it may not be too much longer before the legislature significantly revises Minnesota’s system.
Some of these revisions may include expanding certain existing elements of the system. In many instances, arrest may not even be an issue at all. Crow Wing County peace officers have broad discretion to issue citations instead of make arrests.
Some offenses, such as stalking and violation of a protective order, are off-limits by statute. Many others are off-limits under law enforcement policy. So, most criminal cases involve arrests and the pretrial release process.
Procedure varies by jurisdiction, but most Brainerd lawyers try to use the Pretrial Release mechanism whenever possible. Generally, eligible defendants are released on their own recognizance after they pay a nominal processing fee. The county’s Pretrial Release division generally divides defendants into three categories:
- Level I (no criminal history and nonviolent offense),
- Level II (either a criminal history or a violent offense), and
- Level III (criminal history and violent offense).
There are some other factors in this determination, but criminal past and nature of arrest are the two biggest ones.
Again speaking generally, Level I defendants almost always receive pretrial release. Level III offenders are almost always denied. Level II arrestees are somewhere in the middle. This kind of release usually includes some conditions, such as periodic check-ins with a Pretrial Release official.
Pretrial release means low cost and few conditions. These are the two biggest program advantages. The major drawback is that the wheels of justice sometimes turn slowly. Release may take several hours, or even several days. In Level II cases which require extensive evaluation, the delay may be even longer.
To expedite release in these cases, Brainerd lawyers may still use the cash bail system. Once the defendant posts money or security, the defendant is released straightaway.
Assume the defendant is arrested for a first DUI with no enhancements. Typically, bail for this offense would be around $1,000. The defendant could post the entire amount with the sheriff. After the case is over, the sheriff refunds the money, minus a processing fee. Or, the defendant could hire a bonding company to post security. Most bonding companies charge a 10 percent nonrefundable premium. A Brainerd lawyer might be able to post security as well.
Bail Reduction Hearing
In most cases, no one benefits from pretrial detention. The cash-strapped county bears all the costs for feeding and housing the inmate. There’s also a substantial liability risk. Falls and other injuries are common in these situations. There are some obvious, and significant, drawbacks for the defendant as well.
So, if the defendant cannot make bail, a Brainerd lawyer can request a bail reduction hearing. At this hearing, the only issue is the likelihood of appearance at trial. Some factors include:
- Severity of Offense: Defendants who face misdemeanor charges are more likely to remain for trial than those who face serious felony charges.
- Amount of Evidence: By the same token, if the state’s case is strong, there is a greater likelihood of flight. As a side note, Brainerd lawyers sometimes use bail hearings for discovery purposes. It’s much easier to prepare a defense if you know exactly what you are up against.
- Ability to Travel: Some defendants have things like money, passports, drivers’ licenses, contacts in other parts of the country or world. Other defendants lack some or all of these things. Moreover, they have jobs and families in the local area.
- Threat to Community: This factor is not limited to violent threats against alleged victims or possible witnesses. DUIs arguably represent a threat to the community as well. To mitigate this factor, Brainerd lawyers often propose compromises, such as an Ignition Interlock Device or house arrest.
- Ability to Pay: For example, if a Brainerd lawyer argues that $10,000 is too high, the next logical question is what amount the defendant can manage.
After the hearing, the judge can reset the bail amount in accordance with the evidence. Or, the judge can do nothing or even increase the bail amount.
Call Today To Speak With A Brainerd Lawyer From Carlson & Jones
Pretrial release is usually an option in Crow Wing County. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.