Criminal Defense

Algorithms to Set Bail

May 18, 2023 by Seppi Esfandi in Criminal Defense  Special Report  
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Algorithms to Set Bail

When a judge decides if a person accused of a crime should get bail and how much to pay, the judge considers how likely it is that the person will not come to court. They will also consider whether the person on trial might keep breaking the law or commit more crimes before the trial day. When deciding what to do, the judge might look at more than just what the defendant did wrong and their past crimes. They can read reports by investigators looking into the defendant’s character. Additionally, they might listen to the thoughts of those familiar with the accused. Ultimately, it’s up to the judge to make the final decision. A bail algorithm makes things easier and more understandable.

Influential Factors for Bail Formulas

Bail algorithms guide judges by using statistical analysis from various factors. These programs evaluate the likelihood of the defendant fleeing. The bail algorithm may provide a score or a recommendation on whether the offender should be released. Sometimes, an algorithm assesses the likelihood of the defendant committing a crime and not appearing in court as two different risks. The assessment could assess the possibility of committing a violent offense independently of a non-violent offense. The judge also considers this evaluation before determining bail eligibility and amount.

A bail algorithm evaluates various criteria and generates a score or suggestion regarding whether to grant a release. Bail algorithms consider several important factors in their assessment, including:

  • Defendant’s age.
  • The defendant’s present allegations.
  • The accused’s prior convictions.
  • Defendant’s history of skipping court appearances.

Algorithms’ Blindspots

Bail algorithms face numerous problems, starting with the lack of transparency. A judge’s decision remains transparent despite its flaws. Stated openly in court and added to the public record.

Society trusts programmers to do their job properly. Successful societies rely on more than just trust.

Transparency and accountability are integral to their foundation. Knowing the insider details of the bail algorithm creation and operation demands a computer science degree and access to the source code.

Although there may be justifications for reevaluating bail amounts, bail algorithms are not feasible, even according to Bondsman, because:

  1. Initially, many bail formulas overlook essential aspects like job status. Unemployment causes significant emotional and psychological strain on individuals, as recognized by psychologists for a considerable duration. Desperation can push individuals to resort to actions they may not have otherwise considered to survive. To disregard these mitigating factors is to overlook the human aspect of the individual. Unemployment reduces the chances of a person being able to pay bail. The algorithm penalizes the accused for their poverty.
  2. Furthermore, bail algorithms neglect that an individual may be struggling with addiction. Addicts rarely commit burglary or assault intending to harm, although this does not justify their actions. Effective treatment for their drug or alcohol problems can help them become productive members of society again.
  3. The criminal justice system’s algorithms have several flaws. First of all, they frequently use skewed data, which has the potential to maintain current disparities. Second, they cannot consider motives or mitigating circumstances when deciding on charges. For instance, a person accused of assault might have acted in self-defense, but the algorithm would only recognize the accusation of “assault” and ignore the case’s specifics. This lack of nuance can produce unfair results and amplify already existing disparities.
  4. Societal approval for bail algorithms is often based on accusations of racially biased judges, deemed the most crucial aspect. Bail algorithms supposedly make impartial decisions based solely on past data, without regard for race.

If the justice system is racially biased, the algorithm’s decision-making process will be flawed due to relying on inaccurate historical data. Although police may target a black man due to his race, the algorithm only considers his history of police encounters when deciding bail, ignoring any potential discrimination he may have faced. This can result in unfairly high bail or no bail recommendations.

Numerous individuals involved in the criminal justice system have expressed their desire to enhance and increase the implementation of bail algorithm systems. Although the topic has been controversial, many individuals have readily adopted the notion of basing pretrial release decisions on data analysis. This is to bring about improvement in their effectiveness.

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Lara S.
December 3, 2019
Seppi had my case reduced to just an infraction, and thanks to him I was able to keep my job. Jorge was extremely helpful too, the reason I went with this law firm. Overall pleased.

How to Win Your Case

We cannot stress enough that you read, understand and follow these 10 basic rules if you are criminally charged or under investigation:

  1. Don’t ever talk to the police
  2. Do not discuss your case with anyone
  3. Everything you tell your lawyer is confidential
  4. Tell police you need to contact your attorney
  5. Never consent to any search by the police
  6. If the police knock on your door, don't answer!
  7. Realize the consequences of a criminal conviction
  8. Your lawyer (not you) will contact any witnesses
  9. Information on your cell phone is evidence
  10. Early Intervention is the key

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