Criminal Bail:

How Bail Reform Is Working in Selected District Courts

GGD-88-6: Published: Oct 23, 1987. Publicly Released: Nov 25, 1987.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the impact of the Bail Reform Act of 1984 to: (1) compare pretrial detention under the old and new laws; (2) determine the extent to which the new law aided in detention of certain types of defendants; (3) compare the extent to which released defendants failed to appear for scheduled judicial proceedings or were arrested for new crimes; and (4) identify implementation problems.

GAO found that: (1) a larger percentage of defendants were detained during their pretrial period under the new law; (2) under the old law defendants were detained because they did not pay the set bail, while under the new law 51 percent were detained for lack of bail money and 49 percent were detained because they were considered a danger risk; (3) the new law left open to interpretation whether the money bail could be set at an amount that the defendant was unable to pay; (4) most of the defendants qualified for the rebuttable-presumption-of-danger provision were indicted for drug offenses that had imprisonment terms of 10 years or more; (5) the new law did not require federal prosecutors to seek pretrial detention of all defendants who met the rebuttable presumption criteria; (6) defendants released on bail who failed to appear for judicial proceedings totalled 2.1 percent under the old law and 1.8 percent under the new law; (7) defendants who were arrested for committing new crimes totalled 1.8 percent under the old law and 0.8 percent under the new law; and (8) although most court officials felt that the new bail law was more direct and honest because it allowed the system to label defendants as dangerous, they were concerned about the amount of time involved in attending detention hearings.

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