New Lawsuits Challenge Bail Reform/Risk Assessment

Within the last sixty days, there have been three lawsuits filed challenging the constitutionality and veracity of recent changes to the bail systems in New Jersey and New Mexico.  Issues include, ankle bracelets in lieu of a bail bond, risk assessment tools and the overreach of a state supreme court.

It is well known, at the beginning of the year, New Jersey moved to a statewide pretrial release program that utilizes the Arnold Foundation risk assessment tool, a tool that is promoted as an effective means to determine if an offender is a risk to public safety or risk of flight.  Bail bonds remain a legal release option in The Garden State though a judge must jump through several hoops before bail can be required or permitted.  Largely, offenders are either deemed to be a threat to public safety and detained or, they’re considered to be an acceptable risk and released on their own recognizance.  In many cases, a defendant is required to wear a GPS ankle monitor.

On June 14, 2017, a lawsuit was filed in a New Jersey federal court by Brittan B. Holland and Lexington National against a pretrial release team leader, county prosecutor and New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino.  In short, the suit alleges Mr. Holland was not permitted the option to post a bail bond in lieu of wearing an ankle bracelet which came with travel restrictions preventing him from participating in family functions outside the area.

This past Monday, the family of Christian Rogers filed a federal lawsuit against New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Attorney General Porrino and the Arnold Foundation.  The man charged with killing Christian Rodgers had been released under New Jersey’s new bail reform rules.  The 44-page suit claims among other things, violations of the Fourteenth Amendment and product liability.  The plaintiff has requested a jury trial.

The Bail Bond Association of New Mexico is among the plaintiffs who filed suit in U.S. District Court July 28, 2017, against several defendants including The New Mexico Supreme Court.  This suit alleges violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment and seeks class action status.

In the matter of ODonnell, et al v. Harris County, Texas.  The bail system was turned on its head earlier this year, when a federal judge in Houston ruled that effectively anyone charged with a misdemeanor was free to go without posting bail.  Harris County subsequently began releasing nearly every misdemeanor offender on an unsecured bond.  It has been reported nearly 40 percent of those released on unsecured bond have failed to appear for court.  Harris County appealed the case to the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, where oral arguments have been tentatively set for the week of October 2, 2017.

Be sure to join me at these upcoming events where I’m certain, all of the lawsuits will be discussed as well as the hard work by the bail industry to guard against the overreaching efforts at bail reform across the country.