How Does Misdemeanor Bail Reform Affect the Rule of Law? Focus on Harris County

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Harris County in Texas recently implemented bail reforms in a bid to improve public safety and keep low-level cases out of jail. This reform stems from the landmark O’Donnell litigation and was implemented through a judicial injunction that happened in 2017. A consent decree was then made in 2019.

This system seeks to eliminate monetary bail for many misdemeanor cases. This effectively eliminates the need for them to stay behind bars as they wait for their trials. Those who are ineligible for cashless bail should get representation from a public defender and have their cases heard in 48 hours. The new changes also disrupted the online bail bond process.

Given that it targets people with low-level cases, the reforms have generated support from various conservative and law enforcement quarters.

While the reforms have good intentions, there are dangers to the entire population from such bail reforms. This article uses Harris County as one of the examples of why such reforms may not be good for the justice system. Here are some of the issues that came up from the reform.

A Bigger Number of People Skipping Court Sessions

A large number of those arrested are failing to appear in court. This is due to the fact that they have not committed anything of value and that cases may not have resulted in a huge penalty or jail term. Skipping court sessions has put pressure on law enforcement agencies as it always causes a backlog of cases and resources to summon the person in the case.

As any bail house would explain, cash bail was initially intended as a healthy incentive to persuade defendants to appear in court for their trial. They would forfeit their cash if they failed to appear for the hearing. This is called the failure to appear rate. The failure to appear rate has gone up and will continue if the reforms still exist. In Harris County, there has been a failure to appear rates as high as 97%.

Justice is Delayed

When cases continue backlogging in court, and no verdict is received, people who were victims of the case lose their opportunity to get justice. Justice delayed is justice denied. The bail system was initially meant to ensure everyone gets justice on time.

People need to be compensated, and some lawbreakers need to be removed from society. This can only happen if the justice system sentences them on time. This is lacking as many cases have not been concluded.

Increased Crime Rates

Crime rates are bound to go up for several reasons. First, those who have been arrested and taken to court but are allowed to remain at home without consequence are more likely to commit further crimes because they are not remorseful of their actions.

On the other hand, the justice system is meant to be a deterrent to people who may be thinking of committing similar crimes. If these crimes are not concluded, there is no deterrent as likely convicts enjoy their time at home.

Costs to the County

There is a high cost to keeping up with the people who skip court sessions. A team of law enforcers may have to go out to look for them, depending on the case at hand.

Besides, the extra court time and prosecution resources are also likely to increase costs at the county level. The society will also have to pay for increased crime rates, delayed justice, and individuals involved in the case will have to make more trips to court.

Get Help from Qualified Bail Bondsmen

If you have been arrested for a bailable crime, you can have the bail processed online and via phone by Frank Calabretta’s Bail House. We help you post bail in a short period so that you are able to continue with your life as the case moves ahead. Start your bail bond online by contacting us today. Our bail bond agents are available around the clock; simply call (530) 823-8340.