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  • Writer's picturePeter Lindstrom, Esq.

John Oliver Roasts Cash Bail: How Does this Impact Bail for your case in Minnesota?


Cash bail has been the norm in the United States for a long time. But we are one of only two nations in the world who continue to use a for profit cash bail system (the Philippines is the other). John Oliver rightly criticizes a system that keeps an indigent women in jail for a petty misdemeanor marijuana charge because she can't afford $2,000 bail while Harvey Weinstein bails out for $2 million despite being a heinous sexual predator for decades. High bail amounts don't keep people locked up for rich people while low bail amounts criminalize and punish poverty.


Many jurisdictions in the United States are implementing bail reform by either eliminating cash bail or rolling back the situations where cash bail is used. Minnesota has not joined yet. But at its core, cash bail is a flawed system. Because time and again the Minnesota Supreme Court has emphasized the purpose of bail is to assure the accused's presence at trial (see State v. Brooks). It has never been intended to keep people in jail indefinitely until they face trial. You are innocent until proven guilty. Punishment is meant to be faced after trail not before it.


Cash bail was originally implemented under a theory of collateral so that if the accused did not show up at trial the bail would be sacrificed. But as highlighted in the Last Week Tonight episode above there has been no study to show that appearance rates are lower in jurisdictions that do not require cash bail. Appearance rates stay the same or are slightly higher in jurisdictions without cash bail. The collateral theory does not work out in practice. In practice, higher bail is imposed in more serious cases as a method to try and keep the accused in jail. Prosecutors and judges will not admit this is their intention. But that is ultimately the result. $2 million is not enough to keep in Harvey Weinstein in jail pre-trial and $2,000 is too much for an indigent women for a petty misdemeanor marijuana offense.


What does this mean for your Minnesota case where bail is imposed? Hire a criminal defense attorney who knows the law and knows how to vigorously argue on your behalf. Minnesota may not have passed bail reform acts in recent years but at its core bail is meant purely for the purpose as assuring your appearance at court. Shifting the argument away from a system that has become comfortable in assigning high bail amounts in charges of all types takes great skill and acumen. A criminal defense attorney will help immeasurably in getting you or your loved one out of jail. Contact Subzero Criminal Defense today at 651-248-5142 - peter@subzerodefense.com.

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