Articles Tagged with pretrial

Unlike most jurisdictions, the District of Columbia Superior Court does not operate on a cash bail system. That means there are no bail bondsman in the District of Columbia. In addition, how much an arrested person can pay has no bearing on whether the person actually gets released. Instead, the D.C. code has something called the Bail Reform Act, which creates a condition-based system for pretrial release.

There are certainly benefits to the approach but also some problems. Unlike many states, no person arrested will languish in jail because they cannot afford to pay a bondsman. However, the condition-based system actually has a practical effect of essentially putting the defendant on probation before even getting convicted. For most misdemeanor offenses, like DUI and simple assault, the judge will release the individual on personal recognizance.  Personal recognizance is just on the person’s promise to return to court.

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black police cuffsThe District of Columbia Superior Court is unlike many jurisdictions in that it does not have a bail bond system. In fact, there is not a single bail bonds person or business in the entire District. The City Council outlawed bail bonds years ago. So, the question is how is bond determined in a DC criminal case. DC Superior Court has a condition based system that starts with the general principle that most people should be released on their personal promise to appear in court.

That means in most misdemeanor cases, including DUIs, the person arrested will be released and required to sign notice to return for their next court date and appear with their attorney. The notice informs the person that if they fail to appear at the next court date, they could be charged with a separate crime (called a Bail Reform Act violation) that carries a maximum penalty of 180 days and/or a $1,000.00 fine. Often times, however, the judge will also impose court ordered conditions as part of the person’s release. Sometimes these conditions make sense. For example, when a repeat drug offender gets ordered to participate in a drug treatment program. However, many times the conditions imposed can be invasive, burdensome, and even paternalistic.

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