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Honoring Innocent Until Proven Guilty: Switching the Default Rule From Pretrial Detention to Pretrial Release in Texas's Bail System, Texas A&M Law Review, 2019

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Texas A&M Law Review
Volume 6

Issue 1

2-2019

Honoring Innocent Until Proven Guilty: Switching the Default Rule
from Pretrial Detention to Pretrial Release in Texas's Bail System
Stephen Rispoli
Baylor University Law School, Stephen_Rispoli@baylor.edu

Follow this and additional works at: https://scholarship.law.tamu.edu/lawreview
Part of the Criminal Law Commons, Criminal Procedure Commons, Law and Politics Commons, and
the Legislation Commons

Recommended Citation
Stephen Rispoli, Honoring Innocent Until Proven Guilty: Switching the Default Rule from Pretrial Detention
to Pretrial Release in Texas's Bail System, 6 Tex. A&M L. Rev. Arguendo 41 (2019).
Available at: https://scholarship.law.tamu.edu/lawreview/vol6/iss1/17

This Arguendo (Online) is brought to you for free and open access by Texas A&M Law Scholarship. It has been
accepted for inclusion in Texas A&M Law Review by an authorized editor of Texas A&M Law Scholarship. For more
information, please contact aretteen@law.tamu.edu.

Electronic copy available at: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3594527

Volume 6

Texas A&M Law Review Arguendo

2019

HONORING INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY:
SWITCHING THE DEFAULT RULE1 FROM PRETRIAL DETENTION TO PRETRIAL RELEASE IN
TEXAS’S BAIL SYSTEM
Stephen L. Rispoli*
ABSTRACT
Texas’s current prison population consists of far more pretrial detainees than convicted
criminals. Despite United States and Texas constitutional protections, the default rule in many
jurisdictions, including Texas, detains misdemeanor and non-violent felony defendants unless they
can post a monetary bond or get a surety to post the bond for them (“bail bond”) to obtain their
release. Most pretrial detainees remain detained due not to their alleged dangerousness, but rather
because they simply cannot afford to post bail (or get someone to post it for them). As a result,
many pretrial detainees find themselves choosing between hamstringing their financial future or
remaining in detention until trial. If Americans are serious about “honoring the presumption of
innocence,” we must reform the way that misdemeanor and non-violent felony defendants are
treated while awaiting trial. Rather than treat them as guilty and keep them in jail unless they can
pay for their release, the standard should be to release them unless there is a very good reason for
not doing so.
By changing the default option from pretrial detention to pretrial release, many Texas
judges will be more pre-disposed to release misdemeanor and non-violent felony defendants on
conditions other than the posting of monetary bail. This switch will result in fewer people being
detained simply because they cannot afford to be released—which will prevent adverse economic
consequences to already disadvantaged citizens.
Proposed reform has been discussed for decades. Reforming the bail system in Texas is a
current, critical need. This criminal justice issue undermines the public’s faith in our system of
justice and detrimentally affects the economic and social status of countless citizens who will
ultimately be found not guilty. Doing nothing weakens our overall rule-of-law system and
ultimately erodes the foundation upon which our society is built.

Stephen L. Rispoli, Baylor Law J.D. ‘12, Texas Law LL.M. ‘18, is the Assistant Dean of Student Affairs and
Pro Bono Programs at Baylor Law School. He is indebted to Dean Brad Toben, Dean Leah Teague, Professor
Lauren Fielder, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller, and David Slayton, for their
support, helpful comments, and feedback.
1
This phrase, “switching the default rule,” is borrowed from Professor Cass Sunstein’s article, Switching the
Default Rule, 77 N.Y.U. L. REV. 106 (2002). Professor Sunstein’s influential law review article captures the essence
of how one simple shift in thinking can dramatically affect outcomes. Such a shift in bail reform could result in a
tremendous benefit to society.
*

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

FOREWORD, BY JUDGE SHARON KELLER
I.
INTRODUCTION
II.
THE INSTITUTION OF BAIL—IN TEXAS AND BEYOND
A. The History of Bail
B. Development of the Texas Bail System
C. Texas Issues
D. Conclusion
III.
CHALLENGES TO THE BAIL SYSTEM
A. Eighth Amendment Challenges to Bail Systems
B. Reforms Attempted and Bail Lobby Pushback
C. Litigation to the Rescue?
D. Conclusion
IV.
HOW DOES OUR CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM AFFECT THE RULE OF LAW?
V.
HOW WOULD SWITCHING THE DEFAULT RULE AFFECT THE BAIL SYSTEM?
VI.
BAIL SYSTEM IN OTHER JURISDICTIONS
A. Federal System
B. Washington, D.C.
C. New Jersey
D. Foreign Countries’ Bail Systems
1. Countries with a Bail System
2. Countries without a Bail System
E. Conclusion
VII. SWITCHING THE DEFAULT RULE—TEXAS SHOULD IMPLEMENT A NO MONETARY
BOND RELEASE SYSTEM FOR MISDEMEANORS AND NON-VIOLENT FELONY
OFFENSES WHERE THE DEFENDANT IS UNABLE TO AFFORD TO PAY BAIL, IS NOT A
FLIGHT RISK, AND IS NOT DANGEROUS TO THE COMMUNITY

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FOREWORD, BY JUDGE SHARON KELLER, PRESIDING JUDGE, TEXAS COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS
Bail reform is a topic of much discussion these days, and rightly so. Many studies have
been done and many articles have been written that detail the unhappy consequences—to those
accused of a crime and to taxpayers alike—of the current system in Texas. In this Article, Dean
Rispoli brings to the issue new arguments based on fields such as history and, intriguingly,
psychology.
The purpose of bail, as he says, is to ensure the presence of the accused at trial. But over
the years, we seem to have lost sight of that original goal. As a result, there are times when a person
who cannot afford bail faces the prospect of losing a job and being unable to take care of one’s
family. Studies have shown that people who are not released promptly from jail prior to trial are
more likely to plead guilty and more likely to re-offend. Additionally, the outcomes of cases where
the accused is not released on bail are less favorable that the outcomes of those who are promptly
released. All of this seems contrary to our ideas about the presumption of innocence, and that is
one reason that the matter of bail reform has become the topic of conversation that it has.
Another reason is the cost to the taxpayers. Studies show that when people realize how
much it costs to keep an accused person in jail, they are likely to conclude that bail reform is an
idea worth pursuing. The confluence of humanitarian concerns and cost issues makes this a
propitious time for rethinking pre-trial release.
Dean Rispoli has a new angle on bail that derives from the psychology of choice. As it
turns out, there are ways to encourage certain choices while nevertheless leaving judges free to do
what they do: make judgements about pre-trial release. The details of these studies and the
conclusions to which they lead are a fascinating part of Dean Rispoli’s article. His take on this
important issue is insightful and compelling.

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Volume 6

I.

Honoring Innocent Until Proven Guilty

2019

INTRODUCTION
“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and
unusual punishments inflicted.”
- 8th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States
“Honoring the presumption of innocence is often difficult; sometimes we must pay
substantial social costs as a result of our commitment to the values we espouse. But
at the end of the day the presumption of innocence protects the innocent; the
shortcuts we take with those whom we believe to be guilty injure only those
wrongfully accused and, ultimately, ourselves.
Throughout the world today there are men, women, and children interned
indefinitely, awaiting trials which may never come or which may be a mockery of
the word, because their governments believe them to be ‘dangerous.’ Our
Constitution, whose construction began two centuries ago, can shelter us forever
from the evils of such unchecked power. Over 200 years it has slowly, through our
efforts, grown more durable, more expansive, and more just. But it cannot
protect us if we lack the courage, and the self-restraint, to protect ourselves.”
- Justice Thurgood Marshall2

The detention bail system has become a common fixture in American life. 3 Yet while
discussions around the bail system emphasize the need for reform, possible remedies for those
currently suffering at the hands of the system’s deficiencies have fallen through the cracks.4
Texas’s current prison population consists of far more pretrial detainees than convicted criminals.5
The default rule in many jurisdictions, including Texas, detains misdemeanor and non-violent
felony defendants unless they can post a monetary bond or get a surety to post the bond for them
(“bail bond”) to obtain their release.6 Most pretrial detainees remain detained not due to their
alleged dangerousness, but rather because they simply cannot afford to post bail (or get someone
to post it for them).7 As a result, many pretrial detainees find themselves choosing between
hamstringing their financial future or remaining in detention until trial. Of course, choosing to

2

United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739, 767 (1987) (Marshall, J., dissenting).
LastWeekTonight, Bail: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO), YOUTUBE (June 7, 2015),
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IS5mwymTIJU [https://perma.cc/JK6K-LLAC].
4
See Kamala D. Harris & Rand Paul, Kamala Harris and Rand Paul: To Shrink Jails, Let’s Reform Bail, N.Y.
TIMES (July 20, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/20/opinion/kamala-harris-and-rand-paul-lets-reformbail.html [https://perma.cc/XYC9-G63K].
5
Nathan L. Hecht, Chief Justice, The Supreme Court of Tex., Address to the 85th Texas Legislature (Feb. 1,
2017).
6
Default rules tend to be “sticky,” meaning that most people will stick to the default rule simply because it is
the default rule. See Sunstein, supra note 1, at 109; see also Eli Rosenberg, Judge in Houston Strikes Down Harris
County’s Bail System, N.Y. TIMES (Apr. 29, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/29/us/judge-strikes-downharris-county-bail-system.html?mcubz=0&_r=0 [https://perma.cc/5GLR-DQFV]. (last visited May 14, 2018).
7
Harris & Paul, supra note 4.
3

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Volume 6

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remain in detention until trial also has significant financial ramifications, such as losing
employment, and significant personal ramifications, such as children being left at home alone.
Reforming the bail system in Texas is a current, critical need. This criminal justice issue
undermines the public’s faith in our system of justice and detrimentally affects the economic and
social status of countless citizens who will ultimately be found not guilty. To do nothing weakens
our overall rule-of-law system and ultimately erodes the foundation upon which our society is
built.
In many other jurisdictions, the default of pretrial release for defendants has been in place
for many years. Other jurisdictions have switched the default rule for misdemeanor and nonviolent felony defendants from pretrial detention to pretrial release (with non-monetary
conditions). By changing the default option, many Texas judges will be more predisposed to
release misdemeanor and non-violent felony defendants on conditions other than the posting of
monetary bail. This switch will result in fewer people being detained simply because they cannot
afford to be released—which will prevent adverse economic consequences to already
disadvantaged citizens. The positive impact on our economy, current criminal justice system, and
the rule of law will be monumental.
II.

THE INSTITUTION OF BAIL—IN TEXAS AND BEYOND
“Twenty years ago, not quite one-third of [Texas’s] jail population was awaiting
trial. Now the number is three-fourths. Liberty is precious to Americans, and any
deprivation must be scrutinized. To protect public safety and ensure that those
accused of a crime will appear at trial, persons charged with breaking the law may
be detained before their guilt or innocence can be adjudicated, but that detention
must not extend beyond its justifications. Many who are arrested cannot afford a
bail bond and remain in jail awaiting a hearing. Though presumed innocent, they
lose their jobs and families, and are more likely to re-offend. And if all this weren't
bad enough, taxpayers must shoulder the cost—a staggering $1 billion per year.”
- Hon. Nathan L. Hecht, Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice8
A. The History of Bail

Bail, which invokes the question of whether to release a person accused of a crime between
arrest and trial, is an ancient concept—dating back at least to the time of Plato.9 This question of
release, and more importantly, how to secure a defendant’s presence in court, has likely been hotly
debated ever since the institution began.10 Bail is meant to complement the common law
presumption of innocence by allowing a person charged of a crime to remain free until trial as long

8

Hecht, supra note 5.
Harold Don Teague, The Administration of Bail and Pretrial Freedom in Texas, 43 Tex. L. Rev. 356, 356 n.1
(1965).
10
See id. at 356.
9

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as there is some assurance that the defendant will not skip out of the trial.11 This assurance has
traditionally been secured through the personal promise of the defendant or a representative of the
defendant, or by forfeiture of a large sum of money if the defendant did not appear at the trial.12 In
medieval England, a defendant did not pay sureties in order to be released.13 Instead, if the
defendant did not appear at trial, the sureties were then seized and a fine was imposed on them.14
In the United States, the common practice has developed into requiring “sureties to deposit
money or real property . . . as assurance that the bail amount would be paid if the accused failed to
appear for trial.”15 Although this assurance was originally made by the accused or a friend,
professional bail bondsmen are now the predominant source.16 Professional bondsmen typically
place collateral with the court to cover their liability and are allowed to write bonds up to that
amount (or sometimes, pay the bond in full to the court). If the defendant defaults, the bondsmen
must pay the amount of the bond or the bondsmen’s collateral is taken. Bail bondsmen charge a
“nonrefundable percentage usually around [ten] percent” to the defendant for this service.17
Professional bail bondsmen seems to be a unique American concept, given that most other
countries have banned commercial bail bond companies.18 Yet only four American states—
Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon, and Washington—have abolished the practice.19
The United States Constitution does not grant a right to bail. Instead, it states that
“excessive bail shall not be required.”20 This provision provides little guidance; but, “prior to
ratification of the Bill of Rights, Congress provided in the Judiciary Act of 1789 that ‘upon all
arrests in criminal cases, bail shall be admitted, except where the punishment may be death . . .
.’”21 In Stack v. Boyle, the Supreme Court recognized that the concept of innocence until proven
guilty requires the bail system.22 Further, the Court stated that the “sole purpose of bail is to ensure
the presence of the accused at trial:”23
Like the ancient practice of securing the oaths of responsible persons to stand as
sureties for the accused, the modern practice of requiring a bail bond or the deposit
11

Tex. Const. art. I, § 11 (comment).
Teague, supra note 9, at 357.
13
ODonnell v. Harris Cty., 251 F. Supp. 3d 1052, 1069 (S.D. Tex. 2017) (citing 2 Frederick William Polluck &
Frederic William Maitland, The History of English Law Before the Time of Edward I 514 (2d ed. 1984) (1898)),
aff'd as modified, 882 F.3d 528 (5th Cir. 2018).
14
Id.
15
Teague, supra note 9, at 357.
16
Id. at 358.
17
Jolie McCullough, How Harris County’s Federal Bail Lawsuit Spreads Beyond Houston, TEX. TRIB. (Oct. 2,
2017, 12:00 AM), https://www.texastribune.org/2017/10/02/how-harris-countys-bail-lawsuit-spreads-beyondhouston/#bailreform [https://perma.cc/6Z3K-7CX8]. In most cases, the bondsman or bail bond company is never
required to pay the bond amount. Should default occur, the bondsman or bail bond company must pay the full bond
amount for which the defendant was released.
18
Adam Liptak, Illegal Globally, Bail for Profit Remains in U.S., N.Y. TIMES (Jan. 29, 2008),
https://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/29/us/29bail.html [https://perma.cc/2YCP-XKJ8]. (last visited May 13, 2018).
19
Id.
20
U.S. Const. amend. VIII (emphasis added).
21
Teague, supra note 9, at 357 (citing Act of Sept. 24, 1789, ch. 20, § 33, 1 Stat. 73, 91).
22
Teague, supra note 9, at 358–59 (citing Stack v. Boyle, 342 U.S. 1 (1951)).
23
Teague, supra note 9, at 359.
12

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of a sum of money subject to forfeiture serves as additional assurance of the
presence of an accused. Bail set at a figure higher than an amount reasonably
calculated to fulfill this purpose is “excessive” under the Eighth Amendment . . . .
Since the function of bail is limited, the fixing of bail for any individual defendant
must be based upon standards relevant to the purpose of assuring the presence of
that defendant.24
This requires that the bail amount for each defendant must be determined on a case-by-case basis
taking into account the different circumstances of each person and the nature of the charged crime,
rather than a blanket bail system.25
B. Development of the Texas Bail System
Texas’s bail system has been a focus of discussion and proposed reform for over fifty
years. The Texas Constitution, like the U.S. Constitution, also has a provision concerning bail:
“[a]ll prisoners shall be bailable by sufficient sureties, unless for capital offenses when the proof
is evident . . . .”27 The Texas Constitution further states that the judge has limited discretion to
deny bail after examining the evidence.28 This language, from Article I, Section 11, is
complemented by Article I, Section 13—which is similar to the Eighth Amendment of the U.S.
Constitution, but also includes what is commonly referred to as an “Open Courts” clause:29
26

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel or
unusual punishment inflicted. All courts shall be open; and every person for an
injury done him, in his lands, goods, person or reputation, shall have remedy by
due course of law.30
Like the U.S. Supreme Court, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals—the highest criminal
court in Texas—has also held that the purpose of bail is not just to secure release, but also to secure
the accused’s presence at trial.31 In Texas, there are three options for a defendant to be released
from jail while awaiting trial: (1) through personal bond, where sureties or other security may not
be required, but the defendant must pay a “pre-determined amount of money if she does not appear

24

Stack v. Boyle, 342 U.S. 1, 5 (1951).
Teague, supra note 9, at 359 (citing Stack, 342 U.S. at 5).
26
See Teague, supra note 9, at 356.
27
Tex. Const. art. I, § 11.
28
Id. The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure mirrors the language in this provision. Tex. Code Crim. Proc.
Ann. art. 1.07 (West 1984).
29
Many state constitutions contain “Open Courts,” “Access to Courts Clauses,” or “Remedy Clauses,” all of
which are based on Chapter 40 of the Magna Carta. See Piselli v. 75th St. Med., 808 A.2d 508, 517 (2002). Magna
Carta Chapter 40 provides: “Nulli vendemus, nulli negabimus, aut differemus, rectum aut justiciam.” [“To no one
will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice.”]. WILLIAM SHARP MCKECHNIE, MAGNA CARTA: A
COMMENTARY ON THE GREAT CHARTER OF KING JOHN 395 (2d ed. 1914).
30
Tex. Const. art. I, § 13. The portion of this section that mirrors the Eighth Amendment of the United States
Constitution is also provided in identical form in Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 1.09 (West 1984).
31
Ex parte Reis, 33 S.W.2d 435, 437 (1930).
25

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for future hearings;”32 (2) by “posting a refundable cash bond for the full amount of the bond;”33
or (3) by “obtaining the services of a commercial surety who will post the bond for a nonrefundable
fee.”34
Also like the U.S. Supreme Court, Texas courts do not provide much guidance for
determining what is a reasonable amount of bail. However, while the judge35 has discretion to set
the amount of bail, that amount should not be so high as to be “used as an instrument of
oppression.”36 Further, Article 17.15 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure provides some
factors that can assist the judge in “determining the amount of a defendant’s bail:”
(1) The bail shall be sufficiently high to give reasonable assurance that the
undertaking will be complied with.
(2) The power to require bail is not to be used as an instrument of oppression.
(3) The nature of the offense and the circumstances of its commission are to be
considered.
(4) The ability to make bail is to be regarded, and proof may be taken on this point.
(5) The future safety of a victim of the alleged offense may be considered.37
In addition, the following factors can be taken into consideration:
(1) the possible punishment for the offense;
(2) the accused’s work record;
(3) the accused’s family [and community] ties;
(4) the accused’s length of residency;
(5) the accused’s prior criminal record, if any;
(6) the accused’s conformity with the conditions of any previous bond;
(7) the existence of outstanding bonds, if any; and
(8) aggravating circumstances alleged to have been involved in the charged
offense.38
32
Dayla S. Pepi & Donna D. Bloom, Take the Money or Run: The Risky Business of Acting as Both Your
Client’s Lawyer and Bail Bondsman, 37 ST. MARY’S L.J. 933, 939 (2006) (citing Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art.
17.01–.09 (West 2005)); Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 17.03 (West 1984).
33
Pepi & Bloom, supra note 32; Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 17.02 (West 1984).
34
Pepi & Bloom, supra note 32.
35
For ease of reference, the term “judge,” as used in this Article, will refer to any official who has the authority
to set bail within a jurisdiction.
36
Nguyen v. State, 881 S.W.2d 141, 143 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 1994, no pet.).
37
Id. (citing Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 17.15 (Vernon Supp. 1994)).
38
TEX. JUDICIAL COUNCIL, CRIMINAL JUSTICE: COMMITTEE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS 5–6 (2016),
http://www.txcourts.gov/media/1436204/criminal-justice-committee-pretrial-recommendations-final.pdf
[https://perma.cc/GF9U-97NT] (citing Ex Parte Scott, 122 S.W.3d 866 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth 2003, no pet.); Ex
Parte Ragston, 422 S.W.3d 904 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2014, no pet.); Ex Parte Castellanos, 420 S.W.3d
878 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2014, no pet.); Brown v. State, 11 S.W.3d 501 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th
Dist.] 2000, no pet.); Jobe v. State, 482 S.W.3d 300 (Tex. App.—Eastland 2016, pet. ref’d); Cooley v. State, 232
S.W.3d 228 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2007, pet. ref’d); Ex Parte Hunt, 138 S.W.3d 503 (Tex. App.—Fort
Worth 2004, pet. ref’d); Ex Parte Ruiz, 129 S.W.3d 751 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2004, no pet.); In re Hulin,
31 S.W.3d 754 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2000, no pet.); Nguyen, 881 S.W.2d at 141; Ex Parte Goosby, 685

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Thus, it seems that Texas judges have broad discretion in setting the amount of bail and can take
employment, and likely student status situations into account when determining bail. Yet problems
persist in the Texas bail system.39
C. Texas Issues
There are countless individual stories about the impact of defendants’ failures to afford bail
and the detrimental effects it has on Texas families—such as parents leaving children at home
unattended for long periods of time,40 individuals losing their jobs,41 and the inability of people to
afford a small $2,500 bond thereby being forced to spend weeks or months in jail waiting for trial.42
But the number of people affected is staggering. Roughly twelve million Americans are arrested
and booked into local jails every year.43 It is estimated that approximately “450,000 people are in
pretrial detention in the United States”—both for those denied bail and for “those unable to pay
the bail that has been set.”44 A majority of these people are held in jails at the municipal or county
level.45 Nearly three out of five inmates in these jails nationwide are merely awaiting trial. 46 In
New York City alone, nearly 45,000 inmates are in jail because “they can’t pay their court-assigned
bail,” even when it is $500 or less.47 Overall, the additional detention costs taxpayers
approximately $14 billion yearly.48
Texas, the second largest state in the nation, has an unusually large number of pretrial
defendants in jail. An October 2016 report by the Texas Judicial Council estimates that 75% of the
Texas jail population consists of defendants awaiting trial—all while they are presumed innocent.49
This total is up from “just over [32%]” in 1994.50

S.W.2d 440 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 1985, no pet. h.); and Ex Parte Rubac, 611 S.W.2d 848 (Tex. Crim.
App. 1981)).
39
McCullough, supra note 17.
40
Cary Aspinwall, Overlooked: As Women Go to Jail in Record Numbers, Who’s Watching Out for Their Kids?
No One, DALLAS NEWS (June 22, 2017), https://interactives.dallasnews.com/2017/overlooked/
[https://perma.cc/YVN4-VF2K].
41
McCullough, supra note 17.
42
Cary Aspinwall, A Brief History of Texas Bail Reform, as 5th Circuit Looks at Jail Lawsuit, DALLAS NEWS
(Oct. 2017), https://www.dallasnews.com/news/crime/2017/10/04/brief-history-texas-bail-reform-5th-circuit-looksjail-lawsuit [https://perma.cc/L89V-X3AB].
43
Jason Tashea, Bail Industry Battles Reforms that Threaten its Livelihood, ABA JOURNAL (Mar. 2018),
http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/bail_industry_battles_reforms/ [https://perma.cc/8RGP-XGRA].
44
Nick Pinto, The Bail Trap, N.Y. TIMES (Aug. 13, 2015), https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/magazine/thebail-trap.html [https://perma.cc/B36K-6S8Z].
45
James A. Allen, “Making Bail”: Limiting the Use of Bail Schedules and Defining the Elusive Meaning of
“Excessive” Bail, 25 J.L. & POL’Y 637, 640 (2017).
46
Tashea, supra note 43.
47
Pinto, supra note 44.
48
Tashea, supra note 43.
49
TEX. JUDICIAL COUNCIL, supra note 38, at 2.
50
Id.

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51

Five percent of Texans who spend three days or less in jail are likely to lose their jobs, whereas
14% of Texans who spend more than three days in jail are likely to lose their jobs.52 These Texans
report difficult financial situations, “residential stability” issues, and are “less likely to be able to
support dependent children.”53 Moreover, there is also a racial disparity as African-American
defendants are more likely to receive “higher bail amounts than are white arrestees with similar
charges and similar criminal histories.”54
Worse still, these pretrial inmates are much more likely to plead guilty than they otherwise
would have and are much more likely to re-offend than they otherwise might have.55 Low-risk
defendants who spend more than two or three days in jail are “[40%] more likely to commit new
crimes before trial than equivalent defendants held no more than [twenty-four] hours.”56 If held
for more than eight days, “the likelihood of recidivism increases to [51%] more likely to commit
another crime within two years.”57 Further, allowing monetary bond without risk assessment is
more dangerous.58 Most crimes committed by people out of jail on monetary bond are felonies,
and likely to be violent felonies.59 In addition, victim costs are higher.60
These statistics show not only costs to defendants awaiting trial––they also pose significant
burdens on taxpayers. In 2016, “[a]ccording to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, the
51

Id.
Id. at 4.
53
Id.
54
TEX. JUDICIAL COUNCIL, supra note 38, at 4.
55
Id. at 3.
56
Id. at 3–4 (citing C.T. LOWENKAMP, M. VAN NOSTRAND, & A. HOLSINGER, THE HIDDEN COSTS OF PRETRIAL
DETENTION (2013)).
57
Id. at 4 (internal quotations omitted).
58
TEXAS A&M PUB. POL’Y RES. INST., LIBERTY AND JUSTICE: PRETRIAL PRACTICES IN TEXAS 27 (2017),
http://www.txcourts.gov/media/1437499/170308_bond-study-report.pdf [https://perma.cc/5UG7-6M7S].
59
Id.
60
Id. at 28.
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average cost per day to house an inmate in a Texas county jail is $60.12.” 61 The 2016 estimate of
41,243 inmates costs local governments nearly $2.5 million per day.62 Assuming the population
remains steady, “the annual cost to local governments to house pretrial inmates is $905,028,085.”63
Combined with the statistics regarding pleading guilty and recidivism, this can cause an unending
spiral of time spent in jail.
Many of these problems stem from the “fixed schedules”64 that many Texas counties use
to assess bail amounts.65 While the court setting bail can consider the conditions noted above
regarding employment, education, risk to public safety, etc., these conditions are permissive—the
court does not have to take them into consideration.66 Further, most of the cases dealing with
excessive bail only provide guidance on what judges cannot do because the judge has discretion
when setting the amount.67
Tarrant and Travis counties provide an interesting contrast of this issue. A traditional cash
bail system is used in Tarrant County while Travis County uses a “data-based questionnaire to
assess risk.”68 Travis County allows “many low-risk defendants out on a personal bond, which has
no upfront fee” but does carry a financial penalty if defendants fail to show up for court.69 Tarrant
County’s traditional system, on the other hand, is 12% more likely to release violent offenders
from jail, while low-risk offenders wait in jail for long periods of time.70
D. Conclusion
As evidenced by the statistics noted above, the default rule in Texas seems to be pretrial
detention rather than pretrial release, regardless of the factors that the judges may consider.71 Given
these unfavorable results and disparate impacts across the state, and the significant burden to
taxpayers to fund a malfunctioning system, reform is clearly needed. Even so, Robert Kennedy
advanced some of the same arguments advocating for reform when he was attorney general, and
the issue is still unresolved.72 So, how will legislatures and courts attempt to deal with this issue?

61

TEX. JUDICIAL COUNCIL, supra note 38, at 3.
Id.
63
Id.
64
See generally RECOMMENDED BOND SCHEDULE,
http://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3245982/DallasCountyBondSchedule.pdf (last visited Dec. 12, 2018)
[https://perma.cc/E9H7-79GD].
65
See Aspinwall, supra note 40.
66
Id.
67
See, e.g., Nguyen v. State, 881 S.W.2d 141, 143 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 1994, no pet.).
68
Kera Christopher Connelly, Texas Lawmakers, Judges Push for Major Bail Reform, HOUS. PUB. MEDIA (Mar.
10, 2017, 8:13 AM), https://www.houstonpublicmedia.org/articles/news/2017/03/10/191236/texas-lawmakersjudges-push-for-major-bail-reform/ [https://perma.cc/8Z92-Q2BA].
69
Id.
70
Id.
71
See Aspinwall, supra note 40 (discussing “fixed schedules”); Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 17.15 (West
1984).
72
Pinto, supra note 44.
62

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CHALLENGES TO THE BAIL SYSTEM
A. Eighth Amendment Challenges to Bail Systems

While the text of the Eighth Amendment seems promising, Supreme Court jurisprudence
has not elaborated on or defined what “excessive bail” actually means.73 In Stack, the Court
examined the bail amounts set for defendants charged as Communists.74 The Court first stated that
“a person arrested for a non-capital offense shall be admitted to bail.”75 Further, the Court noted
that bail should not be “set at a figure higher than an amount reasonably calculated” to ensure the
defendant will appear at trial. As such, the Court found that the amounts of bail set for the
defendants were excessive because they significantly exceeded the maximum fine for the
offense.76 The bail amount for the Stack defendants was five times the maximum amount of the
fine.77
The concurring opinion by Justice Jackson, joined by Justice Frankfurter, did provide some
hope for the future.78 Justice Jackson stated that the use of blanket bail systems was a clear
violation of Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 46(c),79 which requires a findings that the
defendant will flee or pose a danger to society.80 However, subsequent major Eighth Amendment
decisions such as Carlson v. Landon81 and United States v. Salerno82 have not provided much
guidance for today’s issue. Neither discussed “excessive bail” in a manner that elaborates on how
the Eighth Amendment applies to low-risk defendants arrested for minor crimes. Nor have there
been any other major Eighth Amendment cases dealing with “excessive bail.” As such, legislatures
and courts struggling with these issues do not have much to rely upon when crafting solutions.
B. Reforms Attempted and Bail Lobby Pushback
In the 85th Texas legislative session, a bill was introduced that would have accomplished
major reform in Texas’s bail system.83 Senate Bill 1338, authored by Senator John Whitmire, a
Democrat from Houston and Chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, would have changed
73

See Stack v. Boyle, 342 U.S. 1, 5 (1951); Carlson v. Landon, 342 U.S. 524, 533–34, 545 (1952). Carlson v.
Landon, however, decided only one year after Stack, muddied the issue of defendants’ ability to receive bail.
Carlson, 342 U.S. at 539–40. The Court held that bail could be refused for aliens charged as Communists because of
their potential danger to society. Id. at 541–46. Unfortunately, the issue of “excessive bail” was not addressed in
Carlson.
74
Stack, 342 U.S. at 3.
75
Id. at 4.
76
Id. at 5.
77
See id. at 3, 5.
78
Id. at 7–18 (Jackson, J., concurring).
79
Id. at 9.
80
FED. R. CRIM. P. 46.
81
Carlson, 342 U.S. at 546; see supra note 73 for a discussion of Carlson.
82
United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739, 743 (1987). Salerno involved members of the Genovese crime family,
who were on trial for organized crime. Id. at 744. The offenses are much different than the average crime than those
for which many Americans are currently detained in municipal and county jails across the country.
83
See Mike Ward, Bail Bondsmen: Reform Bill Will Drive Us Out of Business, HOUSTON CHRONICLE (Apr. 4,
2017), https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/texas/article/Bail-bondsmen-Reform-bill-will-driveus-out-of-11050902.php [https://perma.cc/JF7T-3N2B].

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the process by which courts decide who is released and who is detained until trial.84 The bill drew
heavily upon the findings of the Texas Judicial Council’s 2016 Report, noted above.85 Rather than
allowing judges to follow the “fixed schedule,” judges would have to make one of three decisions
within forty-eight hours of arrest “based on the risk of failure to appear in court or presence of
danger to the public or victim:”
1. Release on a personal bond, with or without conditions;
2. Release on a surety or monetary bond, with or without conditions; or
3. Deny release until the trial court conducts a pretrial hearing during the next [ten]
days.86
In essence, the bill would have switched the default rule from the use of “fixed schedules” to
making the judge pick one of three options. In addition, the bill would have empowered judges to
use risk assessments to decide which defendants receive bail “based on [the] likelihood to come
back to court or commit new crimes.”87 Further, it would allow judges to deny bail for “high-risk
defendants charged with violent offenses before trial, no matter how much money they have.”88
Finally, the bill would have encouraged judges to use “[l]east-restrictive release conditions” for
low-risk defendants to “make sure they come back to court and that the community remains safe.”89
The bill had wide bipartisan support being co-authored by Senator Judith Zaffirini, a
Democrat from Laredo,90 and sponsored by House Representative Andy Murr, a Republican from
Kerrville.91 Chief Justice Hecht of the Texas Supreme Court and Judge Sharon Keller, Presiding
Judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, both spoke in favor of the bill before the Senate
Criminal Justice Committee hearing.92 The witness list at the Senate Committee hearing shows
that many bail system and criminal justice reform groups, including the Texas Public Policy
Foundation, and the Texas Young Republican Federation testified, or showed up to the hearing, in
support of the bill.93

84
Whitmire, Bill Analysis, SENATE RES. CTR. (Apr. 20, 2017),
https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/85R/analysis/html/SB01338S.htm [https://perma.cc/C5JM-NVAC].
85
Id.
86
Id.
87
Id.
88
Id.
89
Whitmire, Bill Analysis, SENATE RES. CTR. (Apr. 20, 2017),
https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/85R/analysis/html/SB01338S.htm [https://perma.cc/C5JM-NVAC].
90
Whitmire & Zaffirini, Authors, TEX. LEGISLATURE ONLINE,
https://capitol.texas.gov/billlookup/Authors.aspx?LegSess=85R&Bill=SB1338 (last visited Dec. 27, 2018)
[https://perma.cc/5BCD-AQQQ].
91
Whitmire, Senate Bill 1338 Sponsors, TEX. LEGISLATURE ONLINE,
https://capitol.texas.gov/billlookup/Sponsors.aspx?LegSess=85R&Bill=SB1338 (last visited Dec. 27, 2018)
[https://perma.cc/Q2XD-P5QN]. See also Ward, supra note 83 (highlighting the wide bipartisan nature of the bill).
92
Connelly, supra note 68.
93
Witness List (Apr. 4, 2017, 1:30 PM), https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/85R/witlistbill/html/SB01338S.htm
[https://perma.cc/TGR2-57K6].

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As noted in the Senate Research Center’s analysis, the bill would not have done away with
surety or monetary bonds as they are “one of the previously listed judge’s decisions.”94 However,
the opponents of the bill, mostly bail bondsmen, felt that this measure would “have a negative
impact on their earnings.”95 In a letter sent by the Professional Bondsmen of Texas to bond brokers
across Texas, the bill was labeled an “existential threat,” that “[e]veryone will be negatively
affected or put out of business” by the legislation.96 Opponents of the bill also claimed that it would
“overwhelm” many justices of the peace who supervise bail hearings because many are not
attorneys.97 Further, they claimed that $7 million in bail fees and “millions more in forfeiture fees”
would no longer be collected by counties.98
The bill noted, though, that those defendants who would benefit from this bill were not
bonding out, and thus it would not have an impact on bail bondsmen’s business.99 As critics of the
bail bond system point out, the current system has a disproportionate impact on poor and middleclass defendants.100 Yet it seems that the bail bondsmen lobby won this battle—the bill did not
pass the House of Representatives before the session ended, killing the bill until the next legislative
session.101
C. Litigation to the Rescue?
The bail system in Harris County has been the focus of critics and potential reform for
years.102 A recent case—ODonnell v. Harris County, Texas—has challenged Harris County’s
system and was somewhat successful in enacting reform.103 Three people—who had been
“detained because they were too poor to pay the amount needed for release” under Harris County’s
system—brought the case.104 The bail amounts at issue in this case ranged from $2,500 to $5,000
for the three plaintiffs.105 The issue before the court was the “constitutionality of a bail system that
detains [40%] of all those arrested only on misdemeanor charges, many of whom are [otherwise

94

Whitmire, supra note 84.
Id.
96
Connelly, supra note 68.
97
Ward, supra note 83.
98
Id.
99
Whitmire, supra note 84.
100
Liptak, supra note 18.
101
Whitmire & Zaffirini, History, TEX. LEGISLATURE ONLINE
https://capitol.texas.gov/billlookup/History.aspx?LegSess=85R&Bill=SB1338 (last visited Dec. 29, 2018)
[https://perma.cc/3WS9-2M26].
102
See Marcia Johnson & Luckett Anthony Johnson, Bail: Reforming Policies to Address Overcrowded Jails,
the Impact of Race on Detention, and Community Revival in Harris County, Texas, 7 NW. J.L. & SOC. POL'Y 42, 45
(2012).
103
ODonnell v. Harris Cty., 251 F. Supp. 3d 1052, 1069 (S.D. Tex. 2017), aff'd as modified, 882 F.3d 528 (5th
Cir. 2018). Of course, this litigation was not popular with the bail bond industry. The same letter sent by the
Professional Bondsmen of Texas regarding Senate Bill 1338 also mentioned this litigation. Connelly, supra note 68.
In addition to this case, U.S. District Judge David Godbey in Dallas has issued a similar ruling to the ODonnell case,
except that it also applies to felony defendants. Daves v. Dallas Cty., No. 3:18-CV-0154-N, 2018 WL 4510136, at
*1 (N.D. Tex. Sept. 20, 2018).
104
ODonnell, 251 F. Supp. 3d at 1058.
105
Id. at 1062–63.
95

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eligible for pretrial release but are] indigent and cannot pay the amount needed for release on
secured money bail.”106
The court found that Harris County’s bail system violated the Equal Protection and Due
Process Clauses, and issued an injunction releasing all those who have been detained for
misdemeanor offenses and were unable to afford bail.107 The district court found that:
Due process requires: (1) notice that the financial and other resource information
Pretrial Services officers collect is for the purpose of determining a misdemeanor
arrestee’s eligibility for release or detention; (2) a hearing at which the arrestee has
an opportunity to be heard and to present evidence; (3) an impartial decisionmaker;
(4) a written statement by the factfinder as to the evidence relied on to find that a
secured financial condition is the only reasonable way to assure the arrestee’s
appearance at hearings and law-abiding behavior before trial; and (5) timely
proceedings within [twenty-four] hours of arrest.108
The Fifth Circuit, however, held that the trial court’s holding was too restrictive.109 The
Fifth Circuit’s modification in its opinion does not require that judges issue “a written statement
of their reasons” for setting a specific bail amount and did away with the twenty-four-hour
requirement because it was deemed too strict.110 Overall, the Fifth Circuit largely affirmed the
opinion of the district court, and Harris County’s bail system is better for it. However, this does
not switch the default rule of a monetary bond being required for most defendants to obtain release
while awaiting trial. Thus, there is more to be done.
D. Conclusion
As legislators and courts examine this issue and attempt to effect reform, they will need
guidance. Luckily, they will not be without any examples of systems where bail seems to be
working from which to draw methods and procedures. This Article will next examine why fixing
the bail system is important to the rule of law (and how to measure effectiveness); the importance
of switching the default rule; and then turning to other jurisdictions where bail systems are different
from that of the average American state and seem to be effective.

106

Id. at 1057–58. The court also noted that Harris County Jail is the third largest in the country and over
50,000 people are arrested each year in Harris County for misdemeanors. Id. at 1058. These “misdemeanor arrestees
awaiting trial make up about [5.5%] of the Harris County Jail population on any given day.” Id.
107
Id. at 1161. It is not inconsistent that this case is decided upon due process and equal protection rather than
the Eighth Amendment because the Fifth Circuit has already held that “[t]he incarceration of those who cannot [pay
money bail], without meaningful consideration of other possible alternatives, infringes on both due process and
equal protection requirements.” ODonnell, 882 F.3d 528, 539 (5th Cir. 2018) (citing Pugh v. Rainwater, 572 F.2d
1053, 1057 (5th Cir. 1978) (en banc)).
108
ODonnell, 251 F. Supp. 3d at 1153.
109
ODonnell, 882 F.3d at 542.
110
Id.

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HOW DOES OUR CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM AFFECT THE RULE OF LAW?
“In our society liberty is the norm, and detention prior to trial or without trial is
the carefully limited exception.”
- United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739, 755 (1987).

The rule of law is, generally, the notion that everyone is equal under the law.111 Under this
precept, all people, regardless of rank and status, are entitled to fair treatment within the system
that governs society, and equitable rules and procedures.112 Another core feature of this concept
places “limits on the exercise of power by [the] government.”113
The United Nations defines the rule of law as “a principle of governance in which all
persons, institutions, and entities, public and private, including the State itself, are accountable to
laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which
are consistent with international human rights norms and standards.”114 The World Justice Project
(“WJP”) provides a more detailed definition of the rule of law:
[A] rules-based system in which the following four universal principles are upheld:
(1) the government and its officials and agents are accountable under the law; (2)
the laws are clear, publicized, stable, and fair, and protect fundamental rights,
including the security of persons and property; (3) the process by which the laws
are enacted, administered, and enforced is accessible, fair, and efficient; and (4)
access to justice is provided by competent, independent, and ethical adjudicators,
attorneys or representatives, and judicial officers who are of sufficient number,
have adequate resources, and reflect the [demographics] of the communities they
serve.115
These definitions include protections for every citizen, regardless of socio-economic status.
Further, both state that all people are accountable under the law. Of critical importance regarding
criminal justice, is that the laws are equally enforced and protect both people and property.
The WJP uses a variety of basic concepts and factors to evaluate the rule of law, most of
which relate to the functioning of the court system in a given country. 116 The criminal justice
111

Juan C. Botero & Alejandro Ponce, Measuring the Rule of Law, WORLD JUST. PROJECT 5 (Nov. 2011),
http://ssrn.com/abstract=1966257 [https://perma.cc/NK54-3E4M].
112
Id.
113
Id.
114
UNITED NATIONS SEC. COUNCIL, The Rule of Law and Transitional Justice in Conflict and Post-Conflict
Societies 4 (Aug. 23, 2004), https://www.un.org/ruleoflaw/files/2004%20report.pdf [https://perma.cc/7JTJ-S8FJ].
115
Botero & Ponce, supra note 111, at 5 (noting that this definition was “originally articulated by William H.
Neukom in 2007, and it has since been vetted with thousands of individuals in over one hundred countries.”).
116
See id. at 9–17. The first factor, “limited government powers,” “measures the extent to which those who
govern are subject to law.” Id. at 9. The second factor, “absence of corruption,” contemplates the “use of public
power for private gain.” Id. at 10. The third factor, “order and security,” “measures how well the society assures the
security of persons and property.” Id. The fourth factor, “fundamental rights,” analyzes the “system of positive law”
that protect human rights. Id. at 11. The fifth factor, “open government[,] allows for a broader level of access,

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system is a critical institution within a rule-of-law society.117 It is the system by which grievances
are addressed and actions are brought “against individuals for offenses against society.” 118 The
WJP criminal justice factor evaluates the system based upon seven criteria. First, in determining
whether the system is effective, it “[m]easures whether perpetrators of crimes are effectively
apprehended and charged. It also measures whether police, investigators, and prosecutors have
adequate resources, are free of corruption, and perform their duties competently.”119 Second, to
determine whether the system is “timely and effective,” it “[m]easures whether perpetrators of
crimes are effectively prosecuted and punished. It also measures whether criminal judges and other
judicial officers are competent and produce speedy decisions.”120 Third, the project determines
whether the “correctional system is effective in reducing criminal behavior” by “[m]easur[ing]
whether correctional institutions are secure, respect prisoners’ rights, and are effective in
preventing recidivism.”121 The fourth factor “[m]easures whether the police and criminal judges
are impartial and whether they discriminate in practice based on socio-economic status, gender,
ethnicity, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity” to determine whether the
system is impartial.122 The fifth factor examines the corruption of the system by “[m]easur[ing]
whether the police, prosecutors, and judges are free of bribery and improper influence from
criminal organizations.”123 The sixth factor studies whether the “system is free of improper
government influence” by “[m]easur[ing] whether the criminal justice system is independent from
government or political influence.”124 Finally, and most critical to the discussion in this Article,
the seventh factor scrutinizes “due process of the law and rights of the accused” by measuring:
[W]hether the basic rights of criminal suspects are respected, including the
presumption of innocence and the freedom from arbitrary arrest and
unreasonable pre-trial detention. It also measures whether criminal suspects
are able to access and challenge evidence used against them, whether they
are subject to abusive treatment, and whether they are provided with

participation, and collaboration between the government and its citizens, and plays a crucial role in the promotion of
accountability.” Id. at 12. The sixth factor is “effective regulatory enforcement,” which “measures the fairness and
effectiveness in enforcing government regulations.” Id. at 13. The seventh factor, “access to civil justice,” “measures
whether ordinary people can resolve their grievances through formal institutions of justice in a peaceful and
effective manner, as well as in accordance with generally accepted social norms rather than resorting to violence or
self-help.” Id. at 13–14. The eighth factor measures whether the system has an “effective criminal justice system[] . .
. capable of investigating and adjudicating criminal offenses effectively and impartially, while ensuring . . . the
rights of suspects” and protecting victims. Id. at 14–15. The final factor, “informal justice,” refers to the ways that
countries resolve disputes in “traditional, tribal, and religious courts as well as community-based systems.” Id. at 15.
117
Id. at 14.
118
Id.
119
See WORLD JUSTICE PROJECT, WORLD JUSTICE PROJECT RULE OF LAW INDEX 2017–2018 13 (2018),
https://worldjusticeproject.org/sites/default/files/documents/WJP_ROLI_2017-18_Online-Edition_0.pdf
[https://perma.cc/E9WW-SYLU].
120
Id.
121
Id.
122
Id.
123
Id.
124
Id.

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adequate legal assistance. In addition, it measures whether the basic rights
of prisoners are respected once they have been convicted of a crime.125
The American constitutional experiment with the rule of law “has appeared to be singularly
innovative and successful and thus serves as a world model.”126 Specifically, the Bill of Rights has
been consistently incorporated in rebuilding and developing countries seeking a rule-of-law
system.127 The protections outlined in the Bill of Rights—such as the right against unreasonable
searches and seizures, right to remain silent, and the right to a fair trial—form some of the core
criminal protections implemented in other countries.128
As such, it is surprising that the United States’ global rank on the WJP’s 2017 Rule of Law
Index is nineteenth out of 113.129 This rank places the United States behind Denmark, Norway,
Sweden, the United Kingdom, and many other Western European countries.130 Further, the United
States is twentieth out of 113 for criminal justice.131 Again, the United States ranks behind most
Western European countries.132
These rankings are based on questionnaires given to the public and to subject-matter
experts in each country.133 Like many of the questions asked for the Rule of Law Index, the
criminal justice questions were subjective.134 The questionnaire asked for opinions regarding:
prison “conditions and overcrowding;” “rehabilitative programs and recidivism;” availability of
“facilities for dangerous and less serious offenders;” prison escapes; “percentage [] of convicted
criminals released from prison [who] relapse into criminal behavior;” police discrimination; judge
impartiality; corruption of public officials; whether suspects were presumed innocent; likelihood
of “torture and abusive treatment to suspects;” whether and when suspects receive legal counsel;
whether the suspects are provided translators; whether defendants were allowed access to the
evidence to be used against them; what rights prisoners have; and whether the government
interferes in the operations of the criminal justice system.135
Unfortunately, neither the surveys nor the Rule of Law Index analyzed the substantive laws
or procedures of each country to determine which laws or procedures were most conducive to
higher ratings. Nevertheless, the subjective responses of the participants are still helpful. When
125

Id.
Martin Shapiro, The Globalization of Law, 1 IND. J. GLOBAL LEGAL STUD. 37, 48 (1993).
127
Id. at 48–49.
128
See, e.g., Stefano Maffei & David Sonenshein, The Cloak of the Law and Fruits Falling From the Poisonous
Tree: A European Perspective on the Exclusionary Rule in the Gäfgen Case, 19 COLUM. J. EUR. L. 21, 23–25
(2013); see also, e.g., Margaret K. Lewis, Controlling Abuse to Maintain Control: The Exclusionary Rule in China,
43 N.Y.U. J. INT’L L. & POL. 629, 636–48 (2011).
129
WORLD JUSTICE PROJECT, supra note 119, at 16.
130
Id.
131
Id. at 39.
132
Id.
133
WORLD JUSTICE PROJECT, METHODOLOGY 152,
https://worldjusticeproject.org/sites/default/files/documents/rolindex2016_methodology.pdf (last visited Dec. 29,
2018) [https://perma.cc/P7NA-8DN7].
134
Id.
135
Botero & Ponce, supra note 111, at 53–54. See Appendix for the full list of questions.
126

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analyzing other countries’ legal systems, knowing what the country’s people think about their
system is instructive. As courts implement the law, especially criminal law, one party will
necessarily feel that the government, through the court, has sided against them.136 For many
Americans, their interaction with the court and legal system will primarily be through compulsory
procedures, such as the criminal law process. “Police, prosecution, and other agencies [of the
government] executing criminal law may unjustly deprive a person of her freedoms.” 137 The
“appointments, promotion, tenure, and salaries [of judges] depend on the government.” 138 Those
subject to the implications of a ruling may believe that the rich and powerful act against their
interest in favor of other rich and powerful players.139 For example, a criminal defendant will likely
view the prosecutor as part of the same rich and powerful group to which the judge also belongs,
as they both operate effortlessly within the system.140 This observation is compounded if the judge
rules in favor of the prosecutor.141 In fact, at the moment of the ruling, a “shift occurs from
[appealing to a neutral arbiter for a decision] to a structure that is perceived by the loser as two
against one.”142 If people perceive their criminal justice system is corrupt or unfair, it will
undermine the entire rule-of-law structure.143
This perception, in turn, affects other rule-of-law issues, such as access to justice.144 When
the average American’s only interaction with the court system is a negative one, people are
unlikely to turn to the courts for assistance when they need it in the future.145 Thus, bail reform
and our criminal justice system needs to be as fair and balanced as possible. In determining what
the best system of bail may be for Texas (and other states), it is helpful to examine the federal

136
137

See MARTIN SHAPIRO, COURTS: A COMPARATIVE AND POLITICAL ANALYSIS 19 (1981).
Uzi Segal & Alex Stein, Ambiguity Aversion and the Criminal Process, 81 NOTRE DAME L. REV. 1495, 1506

(2006).
Id. “Arguably, only impartial jurors can adequately protect an individual from such abuses.” Id. (citing
RANDOLF N. JONAKAIT, THE AMERICAN JURY SYSTEM 18–24 (2003) (stating the conventional wisdom that perceives
juries as protecting individuals from being abused by the government)); John B. Attanasio, Foreword: Juries Rule,
54 SMU L. REV. 1681, 1681 (2001) (“The jury is one of the key protections of individual rights, shielding the
individual against the government. Before government can fine, imprison, or kill a member of the community, that
person has a right to a jury trial.”).
139
See SHAPIRO, supra note 136.
140
See id.
141
See id. at 2, 19.
142
Id. at 2.
143
See id. “The inability to make bail has been a virtual constant in [Tyrone] Tomlin’s life. His first encounter
with the law came when he was 14 or 15—he recalls being picked up on a robbery charge and sent to Spofford
juvenile detention center in the Bronx because his family couldn’t pay bail. After a few months, he says, he pleaded
guilty and received probation. ‘They said it’s supposed to teach you a lesson,’ he said. ‘It just got me worse.’ In twothirds of the times he has pleaded guilty to misdemeanors in the last 14 years, he did so either at arraignment to
avoid being sent to Rikers [Island, New York’s notorious jail complex] or after already spending as much as two
weeks at Rikers. Not once has he been able to pay bail. ‘I’m not Johnny Rich-Kid with a silver spoon,’ he says. For
Tomlin, the historical evolutions of bail and pretrial jurisprudence are abstractions without meaning in his life. Bail
is simply a feature of the landscape, the thing that means he is locked up when someone with more money wouldn’t
be. ‘Sure, yeah, I’m mad about it,’ he said grudgingly. ‘But that’s the way it is. I’ve got to accept it. It’s not right,
but it’s the way it is.’ He shrugged. ‘What are you going to do?’” Pinto, supra note 44.
144
See SHAPIRO, supra note 136.
145
See id.
138

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government’s and other states’ bail systems, as well as the bail systems of foreign countries that
rank more highly than the United States on the Rule of Law Index for guidance.
V.

HOW WOULD SWITCHING THE DEFAULT RULE AFFECT THE BAIL SYSTEM?

The default rule, often referred to as the status-quo bias, is a person’s natural preference
for the current state of affairs.146 This preference exists because people tend to see the
disadvantages of leaving the status quo more than the advantages.147 This bias has been shown in
a variety of studies and in the field.
One experiment with the default rule involved proctors giving a hypothetical situation
where the test subjects received a large inheritance from a great-uncle, and the proctors instructed
the test subjects to decide how to invest it.148 The proctors gave the subjects different prompts.
Some subjects received a neutral prompt, where the subject could choose to invest the money in a
moderate-risk company, a high-risk company, treasury bills, or municipal bonds.149 Proctors gave
other subjects a default rule prompt, where proctors also instructed the subjects that “significant
portion of [the money was to be] invested in [a] moderate-risk [c]ompany . . . (The tax and broker
commission consequences of any change [were assumed to be] insignificant.)”150 The proctors
also gave the default rule prompt to other subjects with other alternatives pre-selected (high-risk
company, treasury bills, etc.).151
The results of the experiment showed that the option presented as the default was much
more popular than the other options.152 In the experiment with two options for each question, the
default was preferred over the other option in sixteen of twenty-four cases.153 With three options
for each question, the default was preferred in thirteen of eighteen cases.154 The final version, with
four options, resulted in the default being preferred in seventeen of twenty-four cases.155 This
strong preference for the default option also seems to increase when there is more than one
alternative available.156
Both New Jersey and Pennsylvania’s state car insurance programs are an example of an
“unplanned, natural experiment” of the “default rule” effect.157 New Jersey had created a program

146

See Daniel Kahneman, Jack L. Knetsch, & Richard H. Thaler, Anomalies: The Endowment Effect, Loss
Aversion, and Status Quo Bias, 5 J. ECON. PERSP. 193, 194 (1991).
147
Id. at 197–98.
148
William Samuelson & Richard Zeckhauser, Status Quo Bias in Decision Making, 1 J. Risk & Uncertainty 7,
12 (1988).
149
Id.
150
Id. at 12–13.
151
Id. at 13.
152
Id. at 14–19.
153
Id. at 14.
154
Id.
155
Id.
156
Id. at 19.
157
Sunstein, supra note 1, at 114 (citing Colin F. Camerer, Prospect Theory in the Wild: Evidence from the
Field, in CHOICES, VALUES, AND FRAMES 288, 294–95 (Daniel Kahneman & Amos Tversky eds., 2000)).

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in which the default included a “relatively low premium and no right to sue.”158 Buyers were
permitted to switch from the default and, for a higher premium, be allowed to sue.159 Pennsylvania,
by contrast, created a program with “a full right to sue and a relatively high premium.” 160 Buyers
were permitted to switch from the default and, for a lower premium, be given no option to sue.161
In both states, the default was kept by a majority of insurance buyers. “A strong majority accepted
the default rule in both states, with only about [20%] of New Jersey drivers acquiring the full right
to sue, and [75%] percent of Pennsylvania drivers retaining that right.”162 Thus, opting for the
default is a strong tendency even when there are relatively low transactional costs in switching.
This default-rule bias has also been proven in studies regarding changes to statutory laws
or constitutional provisions that have been designated the default,163 patients choosing the default
medical option to their detriment,164 and even that the default chocolate option tastes best.165
The default-rule bias has proven to be “sticky,” and thus, resistant to change.166 “Making
one option the [default rule] . . . seems to establish a reference point people move away from only
reluctantly . . . .”167 Lawyers, and thus judges, also exhibit the default-rule bias.168 As noted above,
using “fixed schedules” or otherwise requiring monetary surety bonds are the norm in Texas. Due
to the default-rule effect, this means that the majority of accused persons awaiting trial will receive
a monetary surety bond as a requirement of release simply because it is the default.
But what if we were to switch the default rule? Instead of the norm being that monetary
bail is required to be released, what if the default rule is that monetary bail is only required in
158
Sunstein, supra note 1, at 114 (citing Eric J. Johnson et al., Framing, Probability Distortions, and Insurance
Decisions, 7 J. RISK & UNCERTAINTY 35 (1993)).
159
Sunstein, supra note 1, at 114.
160
Id.
161
Id.
162
Id.
163
James R. Zink & Christopher T. Dawes, The Dead Hand of the Past? Toward an Understanding of
“Constitutional Veneration,” 38 J. POL. BEHAV. 535, 541 (2015).
164
Gaurav Suri, Gal Sheppes, Carey Schwartz, & James J. Gross, Patient Inertia and the Status Quo Bias:
When an Inferior Option is Preferred, 24(9) J. PSYCHOL. SCI. 1763, 1763 (2013).
165
See Scott Eidelman, Jennifer Pattershall, & Christian S. Crandall, Longer is Better, 46 J. EXPERIMENTAL
SOC. PSYCHOL. 993, 996–97 (2010).
166
Russell B. Korobkin & Thomas S. Ulen, Law and Behavioral Science: Removing the Rationality Assumption
from Law and Economics, 88 CAL. L. REV. 1051, 1095 (2000).
167
Camerer, supra note 157, at 295.
168
Stephen M. Garcia, John M. Darley, & Robert J. Robinson, Morally Questionable Tactics: Negotiations
Between District Attorneys and Public Defenders, 27 PERSONALITY SOC. PSYCHOL. BULL., 731, 737–39 (2001). In a
2001 study of the negotiations between prosecutors and public defenders, lawyers in both groups exhibited the
status-quo bias when discussing the status, tactics, and strategies of the other group. Id. Further, a 2017 survey states
that “65% of law firm leaders say partners resist most change efforts.” Thomas S. Clay & Eric A. Seeger, 2017 Law
Firms in Transition, ALTMAN WEIL vii (2017), http://www.altmanweil.com//dir_docs/resource/90D6291D-AB284DFD-AC15-DBDEA6C31BE9_document.pdf [https://perma.cc/L4Q3-WNMA]. However, even among law firm
leaders, a 2010 survey found that less than 20% stated that their leadership philosophy “embrac[ed] innovation and
change.” DEBORAH L. RHODE, LAWYERS AS LEADERS 56 (Oxford Univ. Press 2013) (citing Law Firm Leadership
2010 Research on Current Practices and Responsibilities, 10 Law Office Management and Administration 20 (Oct.
2010)).

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exceptional circumstances? If judges have to make additional findings to set a monetary amount
as a condition of release, what would that do to the number of defendants detained while awaiting
trial? The research on the default rule discussed above suggests that it would result in fewer
defendants sitting in jail simply because they cannot afford bail.
VI.

BAIL SYSTEM IN OTHER JURISDICTIONS169

Other jurisdictions have experimented with switching the default rule in the bail system,
even though they may not call it that when doing so. This Section will discuss jurisdictions that
have moved away from requiring monetary bail as a condition of release for most pretrial
defendants, and jurisdictions that have traditionally not required monetary bail.
A. Federal System
As noted above, the Eighth Amendment provides that “excessive bail shall not be
required.”170 Additionally, though the Supreme Court may not have provided much guidance, the
Federal Code of Criminal Procedure does provide more detail.171 If a person charged with an
offense is not released upon personal recognizance or unsecured appearance bond, he or she can
be released based upon the condition not to commit another crime during release and one or more
of several other conditions.172 These conditions include maintaining employment or education, and

169

Although only the Federal System, Washington, D.C., and New Jersey are discussed in this Article, New
Mexico, New Orleans, Alabama, Georgia, and Maryland have also enacted bail reform. See ODonnell v. Harris Cty.,
251 F. Supp. 3d 1052, 1079-84 (S.D. Tex. 2017).
170
U.S. Const. amend. VIII.
171
18 U.S.C. § 3142 (2012). This statute provides:
Upon the appearance before a judicial officer of a person charged with an offense, the judicial officer
shall issue an order that, pending trial, the person be—
(1) released on personal recognizance or upon execution of an unsecured appearance bond, . . . ;
(2) released on a condition or combination of conditions . . . ;
(3) temporarily detained to permit revocation of conditional release, deportation, or exclusion . . . ; or
(4) detained . . . .
172
18 U.S.C. § 3142(c)(1)(B) (2012). This section provides:
[S]ubject to the least restrictive further condition, or combination of conditions, that such judicial officer
determines will reasonably assure the appearance of the person as required and the safety of any other person
and the community, which may include the condition that the person-(i) remain in the custody of a designated person, who agrees to assume supervision and to report any
violation of a release condition to the court, if the designated person is able reasonably to assure the judicial
officer that the person will appear as required and will not pose a danger to the safety of any other person or
the community;
(ii) maintain employment, or, if unemployed, actively seek employment;
(iii) maintain or commence an educational program;
(iv) abide by specified restrictions on personal associations, place of abode, or travel;
(v) avoid all contact with an alleged victim of the crime and with a potential witness who may testify
concerning the offense;
(vi) report on a regular basis to a designated law enforcement agency, pretrial services agency, or other
agency;
(vii) comply with a specified curfew;
(viii) refrain from possessing a firearm, destructive device, or other dangerous weapon;

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complying with several other conditions that assure the judge that the person is not a threat to
society.173 Further, the judge “may not impose a financial condition that results in the detention of
the person.”174 A district court may only set bail beyond a defendant’s ability to pay when the court
explains the reason for doing so, for example, if the defendant poses a flight risk.175 As such, the
default is pretrial release, not pretrial detention.176 The Federal rule seems to have been created to
avoid as much disruption of personal life as possible until proven guilty of the crime.177
B. Washington, D.C.
In 1994, Washington, D.C. changed its bail system in reaction to current practices of the
judges and prosecutors. D.C.’s code was amended to allow judges to set bail at an amount high
enough to “reasonably assure the defendant’s presence at all court proceedings,” yet not high
enough that it “result[s] in the preventative detention of the person.”178 The exceptions to this
general rule are for defendants charged with a violent or dangerous crime, are a flight risk, or pose
a danger to the community.179
To explain this change, Judge Truman Morrison, Senior Judge on the Superior Court of the
District of Columbia, testified in the ODonnell case.180 Judge Morrison stated that, prior to the
1994 change, judges were using high bail amounts to detain high-risk defendants without stating
the grounds for doing so.181 After the change, judges were more transparent about using
“preventative detention,” as provided by the rule, to prevent high-risk defendants from being
(ix) refrain from excessive use of alcohol, or any use of a narcotic drug or other controlled substance, as
defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802), without a prescription by a licensed
medical practitioner;
(x) undergo available medical, psychological, or psychiatric treatment, including treatment for drug or
alcohol dependency, and remain in a specified institution if required for that purpose;
(xi) execute an agreement to forfeit upon failing to appear as required, property of a sufficient
unencumbered value, including money, as is reasonably necessary to assure the appearance of the person as
required, and shall provide the court with proof of ownership and the value of the property along with
information regarding existing encumbrances as the judicial office may require;
(xii) execute a bail bond with solvent sureties; who will execute an agreement to forfeit in such amount
as is reasonably necessary to assure appearance of the person as required and shall provide the court with
information regarding the value of the assets and liabilities of the surety if other than an approved surety and
the nature and extent of encumbrances against the surety's property; such surety shall have a net worth which
shall have sufficient unencumbered value to pay the amount of the bail bond;
(xiii) return to custody for specified hours following release for employment, schooling, or other limited
purposes; and
(xiv) satisfy any other condition that is reasonably necessary to assure the appearance of the person as
required and to assure the safety of any other person and the community.
173
Id.
174
Id.
175
U.S. v. McConnell, 842 F.2d 105, 110 (5th Cir. 1988).
176
See id.
177
See id.
178
D.C. Code Ann. § 23-1321(c)(3) (West 1981).
179
D.C. Code Ann. § 23-1321(b) (West 1981).
180
ODonnell v. Harris Cty., 251 F. Supp. 3d 1052, 1078 (S.D. Tex. 2017).
181
Id.

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released.182 Due to this change, most misdemeanor defendants are released upon nonfinancial
conditions and supervision by D.C.’s pretrial-services agency.183 Currently, only about 1.5% of
misdemeanor defendants are detained, even though secured money bail is still available in D.C.184
Thus, D.C., by switching the default rule from pretrial detention through bond amount to pretrial
release, has significantly decreased the number of people in jail for misdemeanor offenses.
C. New Jersey
In 2017, New Jersey bail reform took effect and nearly eliminated cash bail for criminal
defendants charged with non-violent offenses.185 Like Texas’s attempted Senate Bill 1338 in the
85th Legislative Session, this reform was aimed at preventing “violent repeat offenders” from
buying “their way out of jail” and allowing low-risk defendants charged with nonviolent offenses
out of jail if they could not afford bail.186 New Jersey now uses a risk-assessment algorithm to
determine who should receive bail and how the amount should be set.187 This has resulted in a 16%
decrease in the county jail population, and “preliminary [research] show[s] a [5%] decrease in
violent crime” overall for the year.188 Thus, New Jersey has switched the default rule from a fixed
amount to a risk-assessment algorithm, which appears to be successful in releasing more pretrial
defendants.
D. Foreign Countries’ Bail Systems
Most Western European countries do not have bail systems, or they do have a bail system
but use it infrequently. Regardless of system, these countries all lean toward pretrial release for
minor offenses, unless the defendant is a flight risk or dangerous to the community.
1. Countries with a Bail System189
Like the United States, Switzerland has an “innocent until proven guilty” clause in its
constitution.190 As such, Switzerland’s constitution provides that “any person in pre-trial detention
has the right to be brought before a court without delay,” and that the judge must decide whether
the “person must remain in detention or be released.”191 The criminal justice system allows for
release of pretrial defendants through “personal recognizance or bail unless the [judge] believe[s]
the person [is] dangerous or a flight risk.”192 However, approximately 27% of all prisoners in

182

Id.
Id.
184
Id.
185
Tashea, supra note 43.
186
Id. Also like Texas, this reform faced staunch opposition from the professional bail bondsmen lobby. See id.
187
Id.
188
Id.
189
This discussion is not meant to be an exhaustive description of each country that uses this system. Instead, it
is meant only to give examples of different structures that countries use.
190
CONSTITUTION FÉDÉRALE [CST][CONSTITUTION] Apr. 18, 1999 RO 101, art. 32, para. 1 (Switz.).
191
Id. at art. 31, para. 3.
192
BUREAU OF DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS AND LABOR, Switzerland 2016 Human Rights Report, U.S. DEP’T
OF ST. 5 (2016), https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/265692.pdf [https://perma.cc/K73E-PDNH].
183

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Switzerland were pretrial detainees.193 More concerning, Switzerland’s highest court has ruled that
“detention must not exceed the length of the expected sentence for the crime for which a suspect
is charged.”194 Thus, unsurprisingly, lengthy detention terms have been reported.195 Even so,
Switzerland’s percentage of inmates awaiting trial is much lower than Texas’s.
The United Kingdom (“U.K.”) does have a bail system, and “defendants awaiting trial have
the right to bail.”196 Like other countries, the U.K. does not release those “judged to be flight risks,
likely to commit another offense, suspected terrorists, or in other limited circumstances.”197
However, pretrial detention may not exceed 182 days unless it is an exceptional case.198
Germany also has a bail system, but judges use it infrequently. 199 Judges typically only
require bail when there is a “clear risk” that the defendant might flee. Although, in such cases, the
defendants are usually not released until trial.200
2. Countries without a Bail System201
Sweden, by contrast, has no bail system.202 Although some have criticized Sweden for
excessive pretrial detention (likely for high-risk defendants),203 Swedish judges frequently release
pretrial defendants.204 Courts will release people charged with offenses punishable with one year
or more of imprisonment unless the person is a flight risk, is dangerous to the community, or will
“interfere with ongoing investigations.”205 On the other hand, Swedish courts are unlikely to
release people charged with offenses punishable with at least two years in prison unless “clearly
unjustified.”206 However, each person’s detention is “reviewed every other week, and [defendants]
can appeal against each decision to extend [their] detention.”207

193

Id. at 6.
Id.
195
Id.
196
BUREAU OF DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS AND LABOR , United Kingdom 2016 Human Rights Report, U.S.
DEP’T OF ST. 6 (2016), https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/265700.pdf [https://perma.cc/3H9E-C8HN].
197
Id.
198
Id.
199
BUREAU OF DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS AND LABOR, Germany 2016 Human Rights Report, U.S. DEP’T OF
ST. 4 (2016), https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/265636.pdf [https://perma.cc/EQ5M-UL7P].
200
Id.
201
This discussion is not meant to be an exhaustive description of each country that uses this system. Instead, it
is meant only to give examples of different structures that countries use.
202
Per-Olof H. Wikstrom & Lars Dolmen, World Factbook of Criminal Justice Systems: Sweden, BUREAU OF
JUST. STAT. 14, https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/wfbcjssw.pdf (last visited Jan. 2, 2019)
[https://perma.cc/AYS2-6QH8].
203
Arrested in: Sweden, FAIR TRIALS (2015), https://www.fairtrials.org/arrested-abroad/arrested-in/arrested-insweden/ [https://perma.cc/22NP-ZF2N].
204
BUREAU OF DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS AND LABOR, Sweden 2016 Human Rights Report, U.S. DEP’T OF
ST. 4 (2016), https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/265690.pdf [https://perma.cc/WU73-E97Z].
205
Arrested in: Sweden, supra note 203.
206
Id.
207
Id.
194

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Norway also does not have a bail system.208 Once police have arrested a person, the judge
decides if the defendant should be released or held until trial.209 Those accused of minor crimes
are frequently released, while those “accused of serious or violent crimes usually remain[] in
custody until trial.”210
E. Conclusion
As noted by Judge Rosenthal in ODonnell “[w]hether by legislative enactment, judicial
rulemaking, or court order, there is a clear and growing movement against using secured money
bail to achieve a misdemeanor arrestee’s continued detention.”211 This shift has taken place not
just in other states around the United States, but is also the standard in most Western European
countries that score higher on the WJP’s Rule of Law Index than the United States.212
VII.

SWITCHING THE DEFAULT RULE – TEXAS SHOULD IMPLEMENT A NO MONETARY BOND
RELEASE SYSTEM FOR MISDEMEANORS AND NON-VIOLENT FELONY OFFENSES WHERE
THE DEFENDANT IS UNABLE TO AFFORD TO PAY BAIL, IS NOT A FLIGHT RISK, AND IS
NOT DANGEROUS TO THE COMMUNITY

“Take a recent case in point, from The Dallas Morning News. A middle-aged
woman arrested for shoplifting $105 worth of clothing for her grandchildren sat in
jail almost two months because bail was set at $150,000—far more than all her
worldly goods. Was she a threat to society? No. A flight risk? No. Cost to
taxpayers? $3,300. Benefit: we punished grandma. Was it worth it? No. And to add
to the nonsense, Texas law limits judges’ power to detain high-risk defendants.
High-risk defendants, a threat to society, are freed; low-risk defendants sit in jail,
a burden on taxpayers. This makes no sense.”
- Hon. Nathan L. Hecht, Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice213
Returning to Justice Marshall’s dissent in United States v. Salerno, if the United States is
serious about “honoring the presumption of innocence,”214 we must reform the way that
misdemeanor and non-violent felony defendants are treated while awaiting trial. Rather than treat
them as guilty and keep them in jail unless they can pay for their release, we should grant their
release unless there is a very good reason for not doing so. Even though doing so may occasionally
allow the accused to “run[] from trouble and the jail-term the judge had in mind,”215 it is preferable
BUREAU OF DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS AND LABOR, Norway 2016 Human Rights Report, U.S. DEP’T OF
ST. 3 (2016), https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/265670.pdf [https://perma.cc/5Q6F-LZ9J].
209
Id.
210
Id.
211
ODonnell v. Harris Cty., 251 F. Supp. 3d 1052, 1084 (S.D. Tex. 2017).
212
WORLD JUSTICE PROJECT, supra note 119, at 3.
213
Nathan L. Hecht, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, The State of the Judiciary in Texas: Address
to the 85th Texas Legislature (Feb. 1, 2017) (transcript available at http://www.txcourts.gov/media/1437289/soj2017.pdf) [https://perma.cc/FT7C-DJWX].
214
United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739, 767 (1987).
215
GeorgeStraight, The Seashores of Old Mexico, YOUTUBE (Nov. 22, 2009),
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-9FdWmZqRQ [https://perma.cc/6FDH-JYMW].
208

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to keeping misdemeanor and non-violent felony defendants in prison simply because they cannot
afford their release. Thus, courts and legislatures should make pretrial release without bail for
misdemeanor and non-violent felony offenses the default, except when the defendant is a flight
risk or dangerous to the community.216 By making this trend the default rule in Texas and other
states, it will increase the average American’s perception of, and respect for, the rule of law in the
United States.

216

See Sunstein, supra note 1, at 107.

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Appendix

217

217

Botero & Ponce, supra note 111, at 52.

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218

218

Id. at 53.

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219

219

Id. at 54.

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