Benefits, constitutionality of bail bonds: a rational view of the Walker case in Georgia

This is an excerpt and overview of what is covered in the well-prepared and well-documented Amicus Brief  for the United States Court of Appeals
For The Eleventh Circuit on the case of MAURICE WALKER, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. CITY OF CALHOUN, GA, Defendant-Appellant.


Plaintiff would have this Court effectively abolish monetary bail on the theory that any defendant is entitled to immediate release based on an unverified assertion of indigency. Nothing in the Constitution supports that extreme position. Instead, the text and history of our founding charter conclusively confirm that monetary bail is constitutional.

Since long before the Founding, bail has enabled communities to protect themselves and secure a defendant’s appearance for trial while allowing the accused to avoid pretrial detention. And monetary bail facilitated by the commercial surety industry is the single most effective and efficient way to achieve those goals. Defendants bailed by a commercial surety are far more likely to appear in court and far less likely, if they fail to appear, to remain at large for extended periods of time. Moreover, by enabling defendants to post bail with only a fraction of the required amount, the commercial bail industry allows individuals of all financial means to leverage their social networks and community ties to obtain pretrial release.

The City of Calhoun’s monetary bail system is clearly constitutional. The Constitution prohibits only excessive bail. Yet, plaintiff has not claimed that his bail was excessive under the Eighth Amendment. Instead, he attacks the City’s bail system—and monetary bail in general—alleging that it discriminates against the indigent. But it does no such thing. Under the City’s bail schedule, a defendant’s
bail amount is initially set to match the crime he is accused of committing. And under the City’s Standing Order, within 48 hours, each defendant is afforded an individualized hearing where he has the opportunity to demonstrate that his bail should be reduced or eliminated.

Under the Fourteenth Amendment, distinctions based on wealth must only be rationally related to a legitimate government purpose, and the City’s bail system is eminently rational. Its bail schedule efficiently serves the twin goals of bail by enabling defendants to obtain pretrial release (often without having to wait for a hearing) while protecting the community. And the City’s Standing Order is consistent with the constitutional deadline for holding a probable cause hearing under the Supreme Court’s decision in County of Riverside v. McLaughlin. No more rapid timeline is required for assessing a claim of indigency. In fact, the Supreme Court expressly contemplated that probable cause and bail hearings would occur in tandem. It thus simply cannot be that any defendant arrested for any crime must be immediately released based on a bare assertion of indigency, as plaintiff’s theory would require. The District Court’s injunction should be reversed.


See the rest of the brief here:

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