New York Judges No Longer Allowed to Require Cash-Only Bail

The New York Supreme Court this week ruled that judges in the state can no longer require a defendant to pay a cash-only bail, and that they must provide other alternatives for defendants to post bail.

This decision marks a high point in the equal administration of justice. Prior to it, judges could require a defendant to post a high-cash bail or simply wait in jail until trial. Obviously, this left a disproportionate amount of poor people in jail, while those with means could simply post the case.

Now, the court ruled, judges must give defendants another alternative, like using a bail bondsman. Bondsmen typically agree to pay someone’s bail after they receive 10% down and possibly some collateral posted.

Civil liberty supporters and the defense bar both see the ruling as a victory. Jerome E. McElroy, the executive director of the New York Criminal Justice Agency, says “I’m not much in favor of money bail, period.”

His opinion is shared by many who believe the current bail practices favor those with money and unfairly punish those without.

According to the New York Times, 44% of NYC defendants who are offered bail, are unable to post it and instead wait in jail for their court dates.

The ruling came as a result of a criminal court case in which the defendant pointed out state law which states, “a court may direct that the bail be posted in any one of two or more of the forms.” While the prosecutor in this case said that the law simply gave judge’s discretion, the defendant interpreted it as mandating at least two options for bail.

Judges can find a way around this, if they are set on keeping someone in jail by setting a bail too high for them to meet. They can simply require the bail to be higher, and allow them access to a bondsman. In other words, a $20,000 cash-only bail is the same as a $200,000 bail where a bondsman and 10% assurity are allowed.

Bail is something that is used to ensure to the court that defendants will return for court dates. If you are required to put up thousands of dollars, there is a good chance you will come to court in order to resolve the pending charges.

Not all cases are given the privilege of bail, though most nonviolent crimes are. If you are facing charges and have questions about bail or if you are under investigation for a crime and want to discuss possible defense strategies for when the charges come down, contact our attorneys today.

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