Recently, Atlanta's new mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms has instituted a new policy that will release people, who have been charged with minor traffic and misdemeanor offenses, without having to post a bond. It is about time!
I have long since advocated for this common-sense approach. In a blog I posted more than three years ago, I argued that requiring a bond in misdemeanor cases amounted to a war on poor people.
My position has been made publically and forcefully; bond should not be required in any misdemeanor case. It serves no purpose and creates an un-level and unfair disadvantage for the poor or for those who have no one in their life to help in the event of an arrest.
It is understandable that we should secure the attendance of those accused of a felony with an amount of money or collateral they would not want to lose in the event of a failure to appear. When someone is charged with a serious crime, he or she may be facing a significant loss of his or her freedom. The horror of a lengthy prison sentence can scare a person into not attending court. The risk of losing a large sum of money, or more importantly the home or money of a parent or loved one, helps compel a person to attend their court appearance
In a misdemeanor offense, there is little risk of spending any time in jail on a first offense. Even for multiple offenders, the maximum punishment for a misdemeanor in Georgia is 12-months.
Posting $1000 - $3000 does not affect whether a person will attend court. It is an insignificant amount of money for anyone that is active in today's modern economy, especially when a professional bonding company only requires a fraction of the bond amount as their fee.
However, for a person who is marginalized or just low income, even a few hundred dollars is more than that person can afford. The result is that ordinary people can post bond after a Georgia DUI Arrest, and poor people sit in jail until their court dates. It is simply unfair.
Many people plead guilty to minor traffic offenses just to get out of jail. They, in effect, lose their right to a trial because they are poor or marginalized. Mentally ill people languish in jail as well. It is morally appalling that this is allowed in 2018.
Using the law to punish the poor more severely should never be allowed. Bond is an inconvenience to most people arrested for a misdemeanor offense. For the poor, it is additional punishment.