Bail Reform Frequently Asked Questions

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What is “pretrial?”

The pretrial period begins at a person’s first contact with law enforcement. it ends at case disposition. Final outcomes might one of the following: the charges are dismissed, the person pleads guilty, or the case goes to trial and the person is found innocent or guilty. During the pretrial period, people are presumed innocent and have due process protections. The right to physical liberty is a foundational principle of the U.S. Constitution. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court says that “liberty is the norm, and detention prior to trial or without trial is the carefully limited exception.”

What are “conditions of release?”

Judicial officers can require people to uphold certain conditions while on pretrial release, but the conditions must be individualized and least restrictive necessary to provide a reasonable assurance of court appearance and community safety. Examples of conditions include staying away from specific people or places, promising to attend court hearings, or participating in some form of monitoring, such as electronic monitoring or checking in with a pretrial services representative. Conditions may be financial or nonfinancial.

What is “cash bail?”

A financial release condition, often called “cash bail” or “money bail,” is an amount of money that, if ordered by a judge, will be lost if the person fails to appear in court. 

What are the problems with cash bail? 

Financial release conditions, often called “cash bail” or “money bail,” mean a person is released from jail only if they can afford to pay for their release. The research shows that financial conditions do not improve people’s law-abiding behavior or return to court. But imposing money as a condition of release often results in pretrial detention, which has documented negative effects, including increased pressure to make a plea deal, greater likelihood of a guilty verdict, harsher sentences, higher rates of new arrest, and disruption or loss of housing, employment, and family support. Financial conditions create racial and economic disparities in the criminal justice system. On average, Black and Latino receive higher financial conditions than similarly situated white people. 

What is cash bail and how can I pay it?

A financial release condition is an amount of money a person must pay to be released from jail. If you are required to pay a financial condition and you cannot afford it, you can seek out a commercial bail bonds company, a nonprofit that assists people who cannot afford to pay their bond amount, or you can seek help from family, friends, or other support networks to contribute resources on your behalf.

For-profit bail bonds companies typically charge around 10 percent of the total money bond amount. For example, if the bond is set at $50,000, the person will pay the company $5,000. A commercial company may require a co-signer or collateral, such as the deed to a house, car, jewelry, or other valuables which can be seized by the bail bond company.

An alternative to the for-profit bail bond company is the MN Freedom Fund, a nonprofit that pays for people who cannot afford their financial release condition.

Learn more about the harms of cash bail

What is due process?

Due process is the fundamental principle that protects all of us from arbitrary or unfair actions by the government. During the pretrial phase, people accused of a crime are considered innocent until proven guilty. Because detention before trial is such a significant deprivation of liberty, it can’t be imposed unless a person is provided robust due process. 

How is someone released from the Adult Detention Center (ADC)? 

A person can be released from the ADC in several ways. Someone may be released by posting money bail before they see the judge. They can be released on their own recognizance, called “ROR,” or released on conditions ordered by a judge, such as money bail and/or “CR’d” (conditional release). A person may also be released if their charges are dropped, or the prosecutor’s office files no charges. 

Can JusticePoint tell me when someone will be released from the ADC? 

No. There is not a way for JusticePoint to determine when someone will be released. 

Will JusticePoint call my family or friends for any reason? 

Yes. With your permission, JusticePoint may need to verify certain information with your family/friends/employers/neighbors to complete an assessment. 

Who determines the amount of money bail or conditions of release? 

The judge will set the amount of money that must be posted to be released and/or the specific conditions of release. 

What does JusticePoint do when someone violates their conditions of bail? 

JusticePoint reports all known violations to the court for those ordered to conditional release.

Can JusticePoint revoke a defendant’s release and put them back in jail? 

No, JusticePoint has no authority to remand or take defendants back into custody. Further, JusticePoint does not advise the court what action should be taken in the event of a defendant’s noncompliance. 

What is a pretrial assessment tool? 

Actuarial pretrial assessment tools use factors to estimate the likelihood that a person will attend their court hearings and remain arrest-free during the pretrial phase. The results provide decision-makers with additional information to help decide who needs support and what kinds of support will help a person succeed during the pretrial phase. Pretrial assessment results should not be used to recommend or decide detention and should not recommend a financial release condition. 

The BRWG is studying the Public Safety Assessment (PSA). It is receiving support to validate the PSA using local data, an important step to help the BRWG understand the PSA’s predictive accuracy for our community. 

What are common needs people have when they are in the pretrial phase?

Many people have unmet needs that contribute to their involvement in the criminal legal system. During the pretrial phase, when a person is innocent and has a right to physical liberty, providing voluntary services to meet their needs can support pretrial success, helping them attend their court hearings and remain arrest-free until their case is resolved. Common needs include housing, substance use treatment, mental health services, childcare, life skills, parenting, food, employment, education, and transportation. 

Visit Community Resources to learn what community-based services are available to support people’s unmet needs.