One could say that July was a good month for public safety and support for effective criminal justice reform. First in Ohio, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for the courts to require that defendants only pay bail by paying 10% cash to the court. It was determined that the court must accept surety bonds as a form of release if the consumer chooses to utilize one. Additionally, just last week, the Supreme Court in Washington State came down with a similar ruling stating that the current state constitution allows for bail to be paid by sufficient surety. With this ruling, a court cannot require only one form of 10% cash, but must allow all forms of “sufficient surety” including a commercial bail bond.
Why are these two decisions so important? Well, for the first time, a precedent has been set by the highest court in two different states that establish commercial bail as a necessary and required form of pretrial release. These decisions are supported by decades upon decades of research that prove the effectiveness of financially secured release through a commercial bail bond as the most effective form of pretrial release. The research done on the subject of pretrial release has been both broad and deep in terms of its source and purpose. From research funded by government agencies to research conducted by private industry groups to research conducted by leading educational institutions, the results have all been the same. Pretrial release through a financially secured commercial bail bond is not only the most effective way to ensure a defendants appearance at court, but also the most effective way to encourage less recidivistic behavior while out on release. And all of these benefits come with zero cost to taxpayers.
I am hopeful that these two big Supreme Court decisions signal a change in how legislators and the public perceive and understand the role of commercial bail in the criminal justice system. Putting aside all the misperceptions and over the top characters generated by Hollywood and the media, it is reassuring to see key decision makers at the highest of state levels recognize and support an industry that does so much in guaranteeing the rights of all who are involved. From the rights of defendants, to the rights of the victim to the rights of the public at large, commercial bail is the one entity that maintains, trust, accountability and promise in the complex system of criminal justice. I look forward to your comments.