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Pretrial Detention and The Poor

Jan. 30, 2018

Floridians who are accused of a crime may be required to stay in jail before their cases go to trial. In some instances, this is because the judge believes that the accused is dangerous and allowing them to move freely in society would put others in danger of harm. However, there are situations in which individuals charged with nonviolent crimes languish in jail because they just do not have the funds to post bail.

The system of cash bail has come under critique in recent years by activists and criminal justice experts alike. They note that pretrial detention can have a negative impact on a defendant’s life, particularly since they may not, in fact, be guilty of a crime. Those who can avoid having to spend time behind bars before trial are those who have the financial resources to pay bail. Those of limited means do not have this privilege.

A recent study on the effect of jailing individuals before trial demonstrated another troubling issue — There is a correlation between pretrial detention and pleading guilty. The study’s authors suspect that some jail inmates are pleading guilty under the stresses of being incarcerated. As a result, jail inmates who may be innocent, or would be found innocent during the trial, now have criminal records.

Individuals who have been accused of a crime may benefit from consulting with a criminal defense attorney. The lawyer might be able to review the client’s case and prevent pretrial detention or reduce bail so that the client is released from jail before trial. An attorney may also negotiate with prosecutors to reduce or dismiss charges, which could result in little or no jail time if the client is convicted.