State Pretrial Reforms

Across the country states are reforming their pretrial practices via legislation, reports, and studies. Areas being examined include addressing detention of those charged with misdemeanor offenses, limiting the use of monetary bail conditions, and the use of risk assessment instruments. 


Not In It For Justice: How California’s Pretrial Detention and Bail System Unfairly Punishes Poor People, Human Rights Watch, 2017
SB10: Bill eliminated cash bail, providing for release (with or without conditions), provided for holding individuals without bond, and mandated the use of risk assessment instruments as selected by the judiciary. Bill was passed over objection by numerous community organizations and signed by the Governor. A subsequent effort led by the bail bond industry resulted in a stay on the legislation, placing it on the November 2020 ballot for a popular vote.


HB 7044 ends the practice of “cash only” bail, where defendants are prohibited from using a surety to post bail; prohibits judges from setting money bail for misdemeanor charges unless they make a finding that the defendant is charged with a  family violence crime, is likely to fail to appear in court, is likely to obstruct justice, or otherwise presents a danger to the community; reduces the time between 1st and 2nd court appearance for misdemeanor charges from 30 to 14 days for those being held in jail pretrial; and establishes a study of the feasibility of establishing a state bail fund for indigent defendants..


HB 204 makes several changes to the Delaware Code, with the goal of modernizing the pretrial process, reducing reliance on monetary conditions, improving the efficiency and outcomes for the criminal justice system, and ensuring the safety of the community. The Courts, the Department of Correction, the Office of Defense Services, the Attorney General's Offices, members of law enforcement and the private defense bar, and the Delaware Center for Justice have worked collaboratively to propose the changes embodied in this bill. (2018)


SB 407 reforms misdemeanor bail practices. It provides judges with more opportunities to utilize community service and educational advancement as alternatives to fines or as a condition of probation. This legislation was based on recommendations from the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform.  (2018)


HCR2017 134 requests judiciary convene a task force to examine and make recommendations regarding pretrial practices and procedures to maximize public safety, maximize court appearances, and maximize pretrial release of the accused and presumed innocent. (2017)


HB 118 provides requirements and restrictions relating to pretrial risk assessment instruments. (2019)


SB 2034, the Bail Reform Act, seeks to move away from requiring people charged with relatively minor crimes to post cash bail as a condition of their release. Unfortunately, the law does not place hard limitations on the use of monetary bond. The new law also allows (but does not require) the Illinois Supreme Court to establish a statewide pretrial risk assessment tool. (2017)

Continue reading below


Paid in Full: A Plan to End Money Injustice in New Orleans, Vera Institute for Justice (2019)

New Hampshire 

SB 556 requires judges to consider someone’s financial means when setting bail and prohibits the detention of people pre-trial simply because they cannot afford bail.  (2018)

New Jersey 

Criminal Justice Reform Information Center, includes data regarding the impact and effectiveness of NJ bai reforms.

New York 

Summary of 2019 Bail Legislation Center for Court Innovation (2019). In April 2019 New York passed significant legislation overhauling key components of their criminal legal system. The legislation reduced reliance on monetary bail conditions for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies, creates a grace period before bench warrants are issued for missed court appearances, and promotes individualized considerations of financial resources when monetary conditions are utilized. Legislation also significantly expands discovery and strengthens speedy trial protections.  

Continue reading below

Featured Products


In the spring 2019, the Ohio Supreme Court commissioned a task force to study the state's bail practices and recommend potential changes to the state's procedural rules which would maintain the presumption of innocence while also ensuring public safety and appearance in court. The 30 person task force included a broad array of voices, including members of the state legislature, judges, court administrator and clerks, law enforcement, bail bondsmen, prosecutors and defense attorneys. Among the group's recommendations were: the utilization of validated risk assessment tools, requiring the presence of counsel for individuals being detained, and the need for uniform data collection. Report and Recommendations of the Supreme Court of Ohio's Task Force to Examine the Ohio Bail System (July 2019)


SB 1849, the Sandra Bland Act, mandates that county jails divert people with mental health and substance abuse issues toward treatment, making it easier for defendants with a mental illness or intellectual disability to receive a personal bond. As you may recall, Sandra Bland was found dead in a jail cell in 2015 after being arrested for a traffic stop. She was unable to post bail. (2017)


HB 728 caps bail for low-level, nonviolent crimes at $200. Also, instead of allowing bail for the possibility of non-appearance, it now states that the person must be a flight risk. (2018)

Learn how you can take action in your state