Bail reform advocates around the country now have a new tool to challenge the cash bail system. In North Carolina, the inequality created by cash bail has prompted advocates to push for pretrial release based on evidence of dangerousness and flight risk rather than ability to pay for bail. Only 10.4 percent of North Carolinians live in a district that makes pretrial release decisions based on such evidence. Recently, litigation in Texas has provided a model for those seeking cash bail reform. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit recently found in O’Donnell v. Harris County that a Texas county’s system of setting bail for indigent misdemeanor defendants was unconstitutional. While state law required an individualized review of factors such as the ability to pay, the charge, and community safety, the court found that individualized assessments did not occur. Public defenders across North Carolina have cited similar concerns in their communities. With this new development in Texas, North Carolina advocates and those across the country have more hope for challenging cash bail. Learn more here.
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