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Florida County Bail Reform Frees 237 Monthly, Cutting Jail Counts

Bail reform came to Florida's Broward County last year to allow poor people arrested for misdemeanors and non-violent third-degree felonies, but who pose no risk to the public, to get out of jail without having to post any cash. Broward is the only Florida county to have moved away from employing a strict, lengthy bond schedule requiring cash bail in varying amounts for low-level defendants to get out of jail before their first appearance in court. People charged with a first-degree felony must post a $15,000 bond to be released; second degree felony bonds are $7,500, reports the Florida Bulldog. There’s been criticism from defense lawyers upset about a get-tough change that requires defendants charged with DUI to see a judge before bail can be set. It was nothing like the controversy in New York in 2019 after the legislature ended bail for most nonviolent offenses. That law was rolled back in 2020 after the New York City Police Department reported blamed the relaxed bail rules for a crime spike.

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis has “vowed to block ‘rogue’ judges pursuing bail reform.” The governor’s remarks prompted Miami-Dade Chief Judge Nushin Sayfie to withdraw a pending bail reform policy similar to Broward’s. Anti-reform bills are moving through the state House and Senate. A Senate bill would prohibit “persons arrested for, rather than charged with, a dangerous crime from being granted nonmonetary pretrial release at a first appearance hearing.” Broward Chief Judge Jack Tuter said that under the new policy, the county jail has released about 237 defendants a month on their own recognizance, without the need for them to see a judge or post a small cash bond, on the promise that they’ll return to court for trial. Tuter said it costs $224 a night to house an inmate. Last year, it cost $197. “You could get a pretty good hotel room for that,” Tuter said. “I feel like it’s making progress. ... I feel certain that if any of these people we were releasing ROR (court lingo for releasing a person on his/her own recognizance) and ... aand then went out and committed a serious incident a police chief or somebody else would call and ask why did that person get out?”


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