Manhattan eliminates bail for misdemeanor charges

Criminal Justice

Cyrus Vance

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.

Bail will no longer be required for most misdemeanor or violation cases in Manhattan, the borough’s district attorney announced Tuesday.

The average bail amount in New York City misdemeanors is $1,000, the New York Daily News reports, citing the Vera Institute of Justice. Manhattan prosecutors will seek bail for domestic violence and sex crimes cases, according to the article.

“A systemic reliance on bail for low-level offenses is out of step with a reformed, 21st-century justice system,” Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan district attorney, said in a press release. “It is fundamentally unfair and does not make us safer, given the range of effective alternatives to pretrial detention now at our disposal.”

Eric Gonzalez, the Brooklyn district attorney, introduced a similar policy in 2017, according to the New York Daily News. New York Gov. Mario Cuomo said Jan. 2 that plans to ask the state legislature to eliminate cash bail for many crimes.

See also: Court systems rethink the use of financial bail, which some say penalizes the poor

Other states have already implemented similar plans. Bruce Rauner, Illinois’ governor, in June 2017 signed into law a bill that that allows low-level offenders who can’t afford bail money to have rehearings for bail amounts, the Chicago Tribune reported at the time. The aim of the Bail Reform Act is to end cash bail requirements as a condition of release for for people charged with minor offenses.

Also, Connecticut in October eliminated bail for nonviolent misdemeanor offenses, but the matter is being revisited after the state sentencing commission in December proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow denying release for high-level defendants. The proposal also would prohibit the detention of defendants who can’t afford bail bonds, according to the New Haven Register.

And in Atlanta, lawyers there this week asked Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to end the city’s preset money bail policy and create a “constitutionally compliant post-arrest system,” according to a Jan. 8 Daily Report article.

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