Recently published changes to Connecticut’s Practice Book will reduce the amount of cash bail required for pretrial release of some defendants.

The Connecticut Practice Book contains rules for appellate procedure, the Superior Court, professional conduct for attorneys, and the code of judicial conduct. Rule 38 sets rules for the pretrial release of criminal defendants and section 8 of that rule relates to the amount of cash bail a defendant automatically receives.

Beginning on January 1, 2024, adopted amendments to Rule 38-8 will make seven percent cash bail available for surety bonds at or below $50,000 unless a judge rules otherwise. Seven percent cash bail may be granted by a judge’s order for surety bonds exceeding that amount. The amendments were approved by the state’s Superior Court judges during their June 9 annual meeting and were published in the Connecticut Law Journal on June 20.

The change lowers the amount of cash bail automatically available, from 10 percent to seven percent. It also raises the amount of the surety bond for which cash bail is automatically available, from $20,000 to $50,000.

Automatic cash bail was not available in Connecticut until 2020. Prior to that, it was only available at a defendant’s arraignment hearing and relied solely on a grant from the judge.

The amendment will allow defendants whose bond is set at $50,000 or less to deposit an amount equal to seven percent of their bond, or have someone do so on their behalf, and be released as if they had paid the full amount of the bond.

According to the Connecticut Sentencing Commission, which sent a letter to the Superior Court’s Rules Committee recommending the since-adopted changes, one of the reasons behind the automatic ten percent cash bail rule was “to provide indigent defendants an opportunity to reclaim their deposit after a successful court appearance.”

Outside of cash bail, defendants can only recover their money if they pay their bond in full, an option that is unavailable to many defendants. As an alternative, defendants who couldn’t afford to pay their bond in full “historically had to resort to bail bondsmen for release, who charge a fee of seven percent of the full bond amount.” That fee is not recoverable, even if a defendant keeps their court date.

According to the Sentencing Commission, since the implementation of 10 percent cash bond, its use replaced professional sureties and full cash postings by more than half.

Preliminary data from January 1, 2020 to August 31, 2021 analyzed by the commission also suggests that fears that expanded cash bond would lead to an increased amount of defendants who do not keep their court dates were unfounded. The data is impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and by the fact that many cases of individuals released on 10 percent bail are pending, but the preliminary data suggests court appearance rates for defendants who utilized the 10 percent cash option are comparable to other defendants. Additionally, the rearrest rate for defendants who utilized the 10 percent cash option appears “to be slightly lower than those for defendants using professional sureties.”

Additionally, according to the Sentencing Commission’s data analysis, while use of the 10 percent bond option was most highly used for smaller bond amounts, professional sureties were still used in most releases where the bond was between $5,000 and $20,000. At the time, those figures were still in the range of bonds where the ten percent cash bail option was available.

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An advocate for transparency and accountability, Katherine has over a decade of experience covering government. She has degrees in journalism and political science from the University of Maine and her...

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  1. The more important question would have been: “How do the victims of the criminals being put back on the streets feel about automatic cash bail?”

    Unfortunately, only my Republican colleagues and I care enough to ask this question, which is never answered by majority lawmakers.

    Ultimately, for those who prioritze justice for crime victims than “justice reform” for serial criminals, the solution is to stop voting to elect and re-elect lawmakers who facilitate the automatic release of repeat-offenders.

    Public safety is a core responsibility of government. If your lawmaker(s) prioritize the “rights” of criminals over the rights of victims, the only logical course of action is to change your lawmaker(s).

    1. Representative Bolinsky: I appreciate your sense of justice in protecting victims and will keep private my opinion about cash bail. However, I take issue with part of your reason for your position, which has implications for the way you and others legislate generally.

      Is “public safety” a core responsibility of government? I argue it is not, if only because the term itself is so vague that it leaves open the opportunity for all manner of inappropriate violations of Rights. Certainly, people value safety in different ways. Justifications like “public safety” in law, made common, are precisely opposite of a humans Right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, among others. They are antithetical to the belief that just power is derived from consent.

      It is vital in Connecticut that there be at least some Representation speaking for those who would like their consent respected and so would limit the responsibilities of government to their proper scope: the protection of each individuals Rights, equally. I ask that you, and legislators broadly, consider the benefits of legislating in a way that focuses less on whether feelings are being hurt, and instead on whether Rights are being violated.

      Thank you for your comment and I look forward to the continued conversation.

  2. Dear AZ –

    Your generalizations of how my colleagues and I legislate, and your assertion that we do not conduct the People’s business in ways that focus “less on whether feelings are being hurt, and instead on whether Rights are being violated” is a nice talking point, however, in practice, using these words to subrogate the Rights of law-abiding citizens is not acceptable in concept or practice. In the commission of a crime, certain rights are, by statute, forfeited to protect society in general, and the victims of crime, in particular. I believe the law can and must be administered more compassionately and, for non-violent offenders, I favor diversionary programs versus traditional incarceration. For the record, I do believe in “second chances”, though repeated arrests for continuing criminal activity should not be rewarded by a system that exists to protect the “law-abiding”.

    Where you and I may differ is in my belief that the Rights of “the law-abiding” come first. This concept is as old as time, the basis of faith, the “Golden Rule” and of the laws of our nation, our state, and the towns or cities in which we live.

    We are living in a state and at a time when criminal justice reform continues to return repeat offenders to the streets, where they often re-offend, knowing they will again be released in a few hours, tops. IMO, this subrogation of the Rights of the law-abiding makes all of us less safe.

    Allow me to convey a very unfortunate breaking news story from this morning, one in which a colleague, State Representative Maryam.
    Khan, attending the Eid al-Adha prayer ceremony in Hartford with her three children, sister and a friend, was assaulted by a man who made “vulgar and obscene remarks”, then “grabbed and hit her and threw her to the ground,” Rep. Khan was injured in the attack.

    Although Rep Kahn and I often vote differently on many issues, this one included, nothing changes the deep concern I share for her safety, nor do I hesitate to include her and her family in my prayers. While I cannot speak for the Good Representative from Windsor, if I were in her shoes, I would not be comforted to know learn my perp were out, walking the streets anytime soon.

    In conclusion, regarding your generalization about the way lawmakers work, there are 151 members of the Connecticut House of Representatives and motivations are as varied as our individual members. Not all legislators have the same convictions, as evidenced by the number of dissenting votes on either side of the aisle on particular issues. We try to work together in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Sometime it works. Sometimes, it does not.

    1. Representative Bolinsky: Thank you for your response. There are many elements of this I agree with, including that this individual should not be about town. A follow up question, with some context:

      It was in response to your expression of “feel” as a basis for creating policy that I responded. As you said, it is so much a part of the policy decision making process that it you ask questions in the course of your job as a lawmaker, which have thus far gone unanswered. Could you clarify, then, do you believe feelings should be a basis for law and policy in Connecticut’s government? In turn, should you, and the rest of Connecticut’s citizens, be forced to accept the results if your colleagues on the other side of the aisle create “public safety” policy based on feeling?

      I am sorry to read about Representative Khan, and thankful you brought it to my attention. NBC’s coverage says she took a high moral position of protecting others from violations of their Rights and bore an injustice. I’m surprised the XL Center doesn’t provide security for events they are hosting. The coverage says the perpetrator has a mental health “condition.” Did you read Marc Fitch’s series on mental health here a few months ago? Wishing Rep Khan all the best and commendations for her actions in preventing others. Have a wonderful Independence Day.

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