Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala says prosecutors under her administration will no longer ask judges to set bail for people charged with minor crimes.
Ayala announced Wednesday that her office will recommend non-monetary release for people who don't present a threat of violence or flight risk starting on June 1. Prosecutors in the Ninth Judicial Circuit will advocate for people who are arrested to be released on their own recognizance for low-level offenses. The qualifying misdemeanors include possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana or drug paraphernalia; driving with a suspended license; driving without a valid license or vehicle registration; panhandling; loitering; and disorderly intoxication and conduct.
"Economic bias has no place in our justice system," Ayala said in a statement. "By primarily relying on money, our bail system has created a poverty penalty that unjustifiably discriminates against those without resources to pay. Our focus must be on public safety, not on wealth."
Ayala says this new policy is consistent with Florida law, which calls for "a presumption in favor of release on non-monetary conditions" for minor offenses.
Cities across the nation have been considering bail reform
because advocates argue it unfairly punishes poor people who can't purchase their freedom and historically has targeted communities of color. Monetary bail can also induce innocent people to plead guilty just so they can go home, Ayala's office says.
"Our current bail practices unfairly and unjustifiably base freedom not on the basis of concern for public safety or flight risk, but on ability to pay," the Orange-Osceola office said in a news release. "Perversely, the system’s current reliance on monetary bail allows people accused of dangerous offenses to purchase their way back into freedom, while poor people accused of lower-level offenses who pose no safety risk sit in jail."
In judicial circuits throughout Florida, including the Orange-Osceola circuit, monetary bail is "routinely imposed" in almost every case, regardless of offense, according to a review conducted by Ayala's office.
“One of the issues with monetary release is it benefits the wealthy while it is an impediment to people with lesser means,” said Chief Judge Fred Lauten in a statement.
Prosecutors will not advocate non-monetary release before trial for people charged with any crime associated with domestic violence, stalking, firearms or dangerous felonies, according to Ayala's office.
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