Bond issues – Basing Bail on Risk Analysis

January 15th, 2015 by Attorney Dan Carman

What Should You do if Charged with a Drug Crime?

Twelve million people are booked into local jails in the United States each year — the vast majority for nonviolent crimes. More than 60 percent of inmates sitting in those jails today are just awaiting trial while over $9 billion is spent annually to incarcerate them. With many people unable to afford bail and the jail population bursting at the seams, some jurisdictions are looking for new ways to overhaul their bail systems. One popular method has been to use risk-based screening tools instead of cash bail bonds to determine whether a defendant should be released from jail before trial.

The nonprofit Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) has been working on using data analytics to develop a national model for pretrial risk assessment. Initial information collected showed that high risk and/or violent defendants were often released, low-risk/non-violent defendants were often detained, and pretrial detention of low-risk defendants increased the likelihood of future crime.

Research by the foundation has shown that a data-driven, analytic tool can greatly assist judges in making objective pretrial and parole decisions, reduce the amount of money spent on pretrial incarceration, and enhance public safety.

Examining Kentucky’s interview-based system led the LJAF to design and create a new product named the Public Safety Assessment Court (PSA-Court). This risk assessor evaluates nine elements in every defendant’s record:

  1. Drug use history
  2. Mental health
  3. Employment status
  4. Residency
  5. Community ties
  6. The charge in question,
  7. Criminal history
  8. Any warrants to appear for court
  9. Previous failures to appear for court.

A risk score is provided for three categories: new criminal activity, new violent crime, and failure to appear in court. High-risk defendants are identified for incarceration until trial and low-risk defendants are identified for release with conditions and supervision. All of Kentucky’s 120 counties began using PSA-Court in July of 2013.

Since then, the general manager of the Administrative Office of the Kentucky Courts credits the tool with cutting Kentucky’s pretrial jail population to close to 40 percent. Preliminary results after a year of using the tool shows that more defendants were released without more re-arrests.

Bond Reductions

One of the first (and very significant) things a good criminal defense attorney can do for a client is move the court for a bond reduction to get the client out of jail! Sometimes – but not always – based, in part, on the type of analysis described above, a court in Kentucky is willing to take a bond secured with a large dollar amount, such as $25,000 or $50,000 and reduce the cash necessary to secure it to an amount of 10% or less. In some cases judges like to add what they believe are appropriate bond conditions, like no contact with an alleged victim, electronic monitoring with an ankle bracelet, and/or random drug and alcohol testing.

If you have any questions about this topic, you can find out more by discussing it with one of the attorneys at The Carman Law Firm. We are ready to provide you with a free and confidential initial consultation. Contact us at (859) 685-1055 or filling out this online contact form.