Cash bail bonds systems are being challenged across the country following claims they penalize poorer defendants. Georgia is no exception.
A law was enacted in Georgia this year that requires judges in the state to determine a defendant’s finances before they order the accused to post bail.
However, some critics of the bail bonds system say it does not go far enough and defendants too poor to post bond still face jail.
This summer, the last part of Gov. Nathan Deal’s criminal justice reform was implemented. It placed limits on the levels of cash bail. The law urges police to issue citations for some low-level, nonviolent crimes rather than putting the suspect in jail to await a hearing before a judge.
People accused of more serious offenses still must appear before a judge. However, the judge now has to consider the financial circumstances of the defendant before setting a bond amount.
Jonathan Rapping of Gideon’s Promise, an organization which trains public defenders to be more effective told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution judges may still make decisions based on superficial observations. He said:
“Nothing stops judges from looking at a person’s clothes or jewelry and deciding they can afford bail.”
Rapping argued the appearance of a defendant is no guarantee he or she can make bail.
The AJC noted some low-level offenders in the Atlanta area languished in jails due to their inability to meet bail. A recent Atlanta City Council meeting heard about the case of Sean Ramsey who was arrested for holding up a handwritten cardboard sign that read, “homeless, please help” near the state Capitol. Ramsey was unable to pay a $200 bond. He remained in jail for more than two months until the Southern Center for Human Rights stepped in.
Some states have retreated from the bail bonds system. New Jersey abolished in 2016. The change meant fewer people in jail, as well as hardship for bail bondsmen.
New Jersey virtually eliminated money and moved to a system where judges consider each defendant’s individual risk before they decide if the defendant should be released or remain in jail before a trial.
Earlier this year in Texas, a federal appellate court upheld a finding that Harris County’s bail practices are unconstitutional because they discriminate against poor misdemeanor defendants. Harris County contains the state’s largest city Houston. Some defendants filed lawsuits claiming they remained incarcerated after being charged with minor misdemeanors because they could not afford bail.
If you are seeking jail release in Georgia, please contact our experienced criminal defense lawyers at (404) 913-1529.