Our criminal justice system can be difficult to navigate. And once you dive into the details, you can quickly discover that it’s fraught with inequities. This is especially true when it comes to cash bail.
What is cash bail?
Cash bail is the system whereby accused individuals are detained as they await trial and are only released if they can put money down as collateral, with the intent being that the accused individual will return to court out of fear of losing that money. The more severe the crime, the higher the bail amount, because perceived danger to the community is a factor along with risk of flight. But even those facing relatively minor crimes can be hit with hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars in bail. This means that many accused individuals end up languishing in jail, not having been convicted of anything, as they await their day in court.
Other problems with the cash bail system
Outside of stripping individuals of their freedom before a prosecutor has proven their guilt, cash bail systems also punish poor people. In essence, those without money can’t post bail and get out of jail, while those who have financial resources can post bail rather quickly. These reasons have driven many jurisdictions to suspend or completely revoke their cash bail system, especially since the cash bail system doesn’t really seem to be all that effective.
What should Michigan do?
Many believe that Michigan should follow suit in getting rid of its cash bail system. But it’s too early to tell what local prosecutors will do. However, at the very least, the burden should be shifted to the state to force it to prove why bail is necessary instead of courts automatically defaulting to the imposition of bail and requiring defendants to prove why it isn’t necessary.
Of course, only time will tell how the cash bail system will be handled moving forward. Until then, those who have questions about their criminal case may want to seek out assistance from an experienced legal professional.