Comprehensive bail reform is sweeping through the country. These reinvent-the-wheel reforms have had mixed results. However, comprehensive bail reform hasn’t happened in Georgia, and it probably won’t happen. The Peachtree State has one of the lowest unsentenced inmate percentages in the nation. So, while lawmakers have embraced some tweaks, there’s a very strong “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality in this area.
So, as outlined below, officials have tweaked the pretrial release system in Cobb County and elsewhere in Georgia. These tweaks might seem insignificant. But they make a big difference to defendants on a personal level. Incarcerated people cannot spend time with friends or work to support their families. Additionally, incarceration often causes a brain injury. You may know someone whose personality completely changed while s/he was on the inside. Sometimes these changes are positive and sometimes they aren’t.
Prompt jail release is also important for legal purposes. If jurors find out defendants are in jail, most of them assume the defendant did something wrong. So, if the defendant isn’t free, it’s much harder for a Marietta criminal defense attorney to successfully resolve the case. Attorneys can also handle, and often prevent, bond forfeitures. Our Marietta criminal defense lawyers also focus on bond reduction hearings.
Before there were any other forms of pretrial release in the United States, there was cash bail. Many people prize money above everything else. So, if they risk losing a significant amount of money, they’ll usually think twice before they flee the jurisdiction or otherwise violate a pretrial release condition.
In Cobb County, cash bail is a lot like a security deposit. If you rent a house, put down a security deposit, and return the house in good shape, you get most of your security deposit back. Likewise, if you get arrested, post bail, and fulfil all bail conditions, you get most of that cash bail back. Officials inevitably charge processing fees. Punching keys on a keyboard is a very labor-intensive process.
The same thing is true in reverse. If you rent a house and trash it, you forfeit the security deposit. Likewise, if a defendant violates a condition of bail, and the judge revokes the bail, the county keeps the cash bail (security deposit). Common conditions of cash bail, bail bonds, and pretrial release include:
- Remaining in the county,
- Avoiding further legal trouble,
- Reporting to a supervision officer, and
- Working and/or going to school full time.
Pretrial release usually also includes some offense-specific conditions, like an ignition interlock device in a DUI and a keep-away order in a domestic assault.
Overall, cash bail amounts are a little lower today than they were five or ten years ago. By “a little lower,” we mean 10 percent lower at the most. However, to most families, a little money makes a big difference. When families are unable to pay monthly bills, they’re usually less than $300 short. So, if the county reduces a $3,000 bail amount by 10 percent, many more families may be able to afford it.
San Franciscan Peter P. McDonough started America’s first bail bonds business in 1898. Over the last hundred-plus years, bail bonds have grown into the most common jail release mechanism in the United States.
Essentially, bail bonds in Cobb County are like insurance policies. If Bill buys a fire insurance policy and his house burns down, the insurance company usually bears the financial risk. Likewise, if Bill gets arrested and buys a bail bond, if he fails to comply with all bail conditions, the bail bond company bears the financial risk.
Bail bonds are so popular mostly because they’re so much cheaper than cash bail. Most bail bonds companies charge about a 10 percent premium to issue these insurance policies. Additionally, a Marietta criminal defense attorney often issues the bail bond or negotiates with the insurance company regarding price and conditions.
Until recently, most local bail bonds companies required credit checks. Today, most companies have either dropped that requirement ir replaced the “hard” credit check with a “soft” one that’s easier to pass.
The newest form of jail release in Cobb County was unavailable a decade ago. Now, if the defendant meets certain qualifications, free (or almost free) jail release is available.
Qualifications vary in different jurisdictions. Generally, the two primary qualifications are a clean criminal record and a nonviolent criminal charge. Each of these qualifications has some grey area. For example, if the prior conviction was a remote conviction (more than ten years old), it may not count. Additionally, there’s no clear line between a violent and nonviolent crime. For example, some pretrial release boards consider stalking a nonviolent offense, and some don’t.
Aside from the narrow qualifications, delayed release may be the biggest pretrial release downside. Frequently, the wheels of justice move very slowly. Many pretrial release boards only met a couple of days a week. Sometimes, a Marietta criminal defense attorney can speed things up a bit. Moreover, attorneys can informally advocate for defendants and increase the possibility of pretrial release.
There’s a difference between a criminal charge and a criminal conviction. For a free consultation with an experienced Marietta criminal defense lawyer, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. We routinely handle matters in Cobb County and nearby jurisdictions.