Most people have a basic understanding of how the criminal process works: you are charged with a crime, you must appear in court, a judge or jury determines whether or not you are guilty, and if you are convicted, you serve your sentence. But what happens before any of that even begins? Before you can appear in court to address criminal charges, you will have to attend a pretrial release hearing. During this hearing, a judge will determine whether or not to release you before your trial and whether there should be any conditions on your release. Typically, this is where bail comes in to play.
What Is Pretrial Detention?
The term pretrial detention refers to the period of time that a person is incarcerated before they attend their trial. At the pretrial release hearing, the judge will set bail, which is a monetary amount that you must pay before you can be released. In Connecticut, there are two different types of bail:
- A person may pay the amount of bail in cash. This amount will be returned to the accused as long as they return to court for their trial; otherwise, the money is forfeited.
- If a person is unable to afford the full amount of bail, they may have a bail bondsman post bail for them. They will be required to pay a surety bond to the bail bondsman, which is typically 10% of the amount of bail. Bail bondsmen can be used in state crimes, but they cannot be used by those who are arrested for a federal crime.
The Issues With the Current Bail and Pretrial Detention System
Between 1970 and 2015, there was a 433% increase in the average number of people in pretrial detention throughout the United States. Bail is one of the biggest reasons for this increase. The average amount of bail for a felony charge ranges from $10,000 to $12,000. Since many people cannot afford to pay this amount, they end up spending weeks or even months in jail while waiting for their trial to take place.
Many opponents of the current bail and pretrial detention system believe that it puts an unnecessary strain on the prison system, and it disproportionately affects disadvantaged populations, like women and people of color. Studies have also found that there is not very much evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of bail for ensuring that alleged offenders appear in court. In addition, the elimination of cash bail is some jurisdictions has not significantly affected court appearance rates.
Proposed Connecticut Bail Reform
Currently, the Rules Committee of the Superior Court of Connecticut is considering a proposal that aims to help low-income defendants avoid being held in pretrial detention during their criminal cases. Under the proposal, defendants with bail of $20,000 or less would be allowed to put up 10% of the amount in cash. The amount posted would be returned when the case was completed, but if the defendant did not show up to court, they would be required to pay the entire amount.
A Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Provide You With Options
At the Woolf Law Firm, LLC, we can answer any and all questions you may have and work with you to determine your best options for defense. Our experienced Hartford criminal defense attorney will work with you to protect your rights and help you achieve a positive outcome to your case. To schedule a free consultation, contact us today at 860-290-8690.