Understanding Connecticut’s Proposed 93% Discount Bail Court Rule Change
The Connecticut Supreme Court is currently considering a rule change that the Court will likely vote on in the next couple of weeks. While understanding the bail system is typically not very easy, understanding this bail change is quite easy—the Connecticut Supreme Court is poised to order that every criminal judge in Connecticut give criminal defendants a 93% automatic discount on their bail before they even see a judge.
How this new proposed judicial scheme will work
Judges will typically pre-set bails so that people who are arrested can have the opportunity to post a bail before going to court to avoid sitting in jail for prolonged periods of time prior to having a judge adjust the bail. To do that, defendants were previously required to post 100% of that bail, which could be done by either posting the entire amount in cash or by having a bail agent licensed by the State of Connecticut put up a financial guarantee backed by a major insurance corporation. Then, if a defendant has that bond forfeited because they fail to show up, the defendant’s bond is then fully forfeited.
Under the Court’s new scheme, there is no 100% security. In 2019, the Supreme Court allowed defendants on bonds of $20,000 or less to secure only 10% of their bond amount to be released, with the remaining 90% an unsecured promise to pay. Since this scheme started, we believe the State of Connecticut has lost millions of dollars of unpaid forfeitures, which of course the Sentencing Commission refuses to quantify. In fact, we doubt that the state has collected a single forfeited, unsecured promise to pay. Defendants know this is a 10% fee upfront and that the state has no intention of ever coming after them on the rest. If they thumb their nose at going to court, there is no way that they will ever have to make good on their bond. Under this kind of system, the City of Philadelphia was owed in excess of $1 billion in unpaid bail forfeitures when the program was disbanded.
Now, the Supreme Court is planning to go further! The proposal is now to extend the bond discount from 90% to 93%, requiring defendants to only secure 7% of the amount of the bail the judges impose and not worry about the rest. Further, the Supreme Court is proposing to expand the size of the bails up to $50,000, giving every criminal defendant a 93% bail discount on bonds as high as $50,000.
There are good arguments against this scheme, which we hope the Supreme Court will consider, including: (1) state statute prohibits denying right to a surety, or bail agent; (2) the state constitution will allow defendants to post the partial security by paying a bail premium of 10% of the 7% of the penal amount (or 0.7% of the penal amount, on payment plans), defeating the entire point of the scheme; and, (3) the economic impact of partial security has been a dramatic increase in the bond sizes, upwards of 70%, causing more money to be paid by criminal defendants for the same releases on bonds, far than offsetting the perceived impact.
We recently issued a letter to the Connecticut Supreme Court, explaining why they should not enact this automatic discount and let judges set bails as they have been.
The Supreme Court is legislating from the Bench, despite a clear statutory directive against. Local officials should let the Supreme Court know that this partially secured bail program is something that should not be approved, as such policies have been proven nationally to increase long-term fugitive rates and thus reduce the changes that victims will see justice.