Being accused of a criminal offense, no matter how minor it may be, can cause serious problems for people in this situation for many reasons. One reason is the possibility of having to stay in jail until a trial if you cannot afford bail.
However, this is changing in jurisdictions across the U.S., including parts of Pennsylvania. According to a recent announcement by District Attorney Larry Krasner, people facing minor charges in Philadelphia will no longer have to post bail to stay out of jail.
‘Unfairly’ targeting low income defendants
Paying bail allows a person to leave jail, continue working and spend time with his or her family. If you cannot afford bail, then you have to stay in jail, which means you can lose your job, your income and connections with loved ones.
The top prosecutor in Philadelphia says that punishing low-income people by keeping them in jail for minor offenses is unfair, and the office will no longer request cash bail for people accused of misdemeanors and non-violent felonies.
Why this is important
In areas that have eliminated bail in these situations, people charged with these crimes are instead diverted into a treatment program or counseling; some pay tickets instead of being placed under arrest. These efforts have led to a decrease in jail populations, and they give people from all financial backgrounds the ability to minimize the fallout of a minor criminal charge.
There are numerous aspects of the legal system that work against certain people. While this is just one city making one change to one element, it is a step toward a fairer process. And it is possible that other cities and states will adopt these same measures.
Anyone in Pennsylvania who has questions about bail or defending against criminal charges would be wise to discuss specific cases with an attorney. The criminal justice system is complicated, and having legal representation to help you navigate it can be critical.