February 21, 2018
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner addressed another one of his campaign promises on Wednesday, announcing that he will no longer ask low-level offenders to pay cash bail.
Effective Wednesday, the office will no longer request bail for people charged with 25 low-level charges that make up half of the leading charges filed by the DA's office in the last five years.
"The new policy marks a decisive step towards making the city’s pre-trial system fairer for the poor and for people of color," a press release from Krasner's office states.
Under Pennsylvania bail law, defendants are typically asked to appear in court for a bail hearing, where the assistant district attorney prosecuting the case will offer a certain bail amount for pre-trial release. Nearly one in four defendants charged with the offenses now exempt from bail under the new policy had faced up to $10,000 bail, the office said.
Under the new system, defendants will be released pending court proceedings, released on special conditions (this involves some pre-arranged communication between the defendant and pre-trial services) or signed on bond, which means a defendant promises to pay an unsecured bail if he or she violates the terms of their release.
“There is absolutely no reason why someone who will show up for court, is not a flight risk, and is no threat to their neighbors and community needs to sit in jail for days because they can’t post a small amount of bail," Krasner said in a statement. "It’s simply not fair. We don’t imprison the poor for poverty."
Offenses that will no longer warrant bail request include three different theft charges, marijuana possession with intent to deliver, a burglary charge and identity theft.
For defendants charged with possession with intent to deliver a substance other than marijuana, the office will consider the following factors when it determines whether or not to ask for bail:
• If the weight of the drugs is greater than 2.5 grams of heroin, 5 grams of cocaine or crack, 12.5 grams of methamphetamine, PCP, amphetamine, or 5 grams of any other schedule I/II narcotic.
• Whether there is evidence of the presence of fentanyl.
• If the defendant has received two or more bench warrants in the past five years.
• Whether the defendant has one or more open possession with intent, violent felony, or gun-related cases.
• If the defendant has finished serving a possession with intent sentence in the last two years, a violent felony in the past five years, or a gun-related case in the past five years.
If one or more factors apply, bail requests will likely be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, the office said.
"This new cash bail policy will not only save the taxpayers money by allowing low-level defendants to maintain their freedom, but it will begin to level the economic and racial playing field in our courtrooms," Krasner said.
While on the campaign trail before his election last November, Krasner said he wanted to eliminate bail for nonviolent offenses. The move will likely precede others to come as Krasner pursues reforms of Philly's criminal justice system.
His push to drop cash bail for non-violent crimes follows a growing trend. New Jersey and New York have recently adopted sweeping changes to its bail policies, and California's attorney general said this week that he would get behind an effort to end money bail in the state.