Would Algorithms Improve the System of Bail in Monroe County?

Reasonable bail is one of the basic criminal law rights in the Eighth Amendment. If defendants are not free before trial, they may accept unfavorable plea agreements to “get it over with.” But over a fifth of New York State inmates are not sentenced and awaiting trial. That’s roughly three times higher than the inmate population in Russia that aren’t yet sentenced. Something is wrong with the system of bail in Monroe County.

Some advocates believe that bail algorithms may address this problem. But in criminal law, no mathematical formula can ever guarantee everyone a fair shot. Only an experienced Rochester criminal defense attorney can do that.

Current System of Bail in Monroe County

When suspects go to jail in Rochester, the Monroe County Sheriff’s presumptive bail amounts usually apply, at least in most cases. Generally, the presumptive bail amount depends on the defendant’s criminal history, if any, and the severity of the offense.

To get out of jail, suspects can either pay the entire amount in cash or post a surety bond with the help of a bonding company. There are pros and cons to each approach.

If Sam posts cash bail to get out of jail, he gets most of that money back when the case is resolved. Additionally, since the sheriff keeps the money in an escrow account, cash bail usually has few conditions. The problem is that, for many people, two or three thousand dollars, the typical cash bail amount in a felony, might as well be two or three million dollars.

So, if money is an issue, Sam can work with a bail bondsman, who will post a bail bond. A bail bond is an insurance policy that guarantees appearance at trial. Most bond agents charge a 10 or 15 percent premium. However, the premium is nonrefundable. Additionally, most private bond companies require defendants to follow several restrictive conditions, such as regular check-ins and drug tests.

Given the high not yet sentenced inmate populations in Monroe County, there is some room for improvement in this bail system.

Proposed Algorithms

Many people believe that mathematical algorithms may be the answer. Instead of only the severity of the offense and criminal record, algorithms consider many other factors, such as:

  • Age
  • Substance abuse, if any
  • Prior “bail jumping” incidents
  • Offense severity

Algorithms can consider more factors because a computer, instead of a person, considers the factors. So, there is no lost processing time.

Mathematical algorithms have their critics. Some observers believe algorithms are racially biased, although the bias is not intentional. Legally, unintentional bias is called disparate impact discrimination. The school test, job skills test, or other items disproportionately affects certain people groups.

Assume a job interview questionnaire asks if the applicant is available on Saturdays. This question does not intentionally discriminate against Jews, but it has that effect since many Jews go to Synagogue on Saturdays.

How a Rochester Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help

In a nutshell, an attorney puts a human face on the issue of bail, particularly at the arraignment. At this hearing, which usually occurs within seventy-two hours of arrest, a Rochester criminal defense attorney can ask the judge for a bail reduction. This request is based on the specific facts of the case, and not a generic numerical formula. Only a Rochester criminal defense attorney can do this.

Bail reduction matters, like most other legal matters, it can usually be settled out of court. In this situation, the prosecutor might agree to a bail reduction if the defendant agrees to additional conditions of bail, such as GPS monitoring.

Contact a Dedicated Lawyer

The Constitution gives you the right to pretrial release, and a lawyer must normally enforce that right. For a free consultation with an experienced Rochester criminal defense attorney, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. Home and jail visits are available.

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