Bill to add to list of misdemeanors that require bond for jail release passes Georgia Senate

Sen. Randy Robertson, a Cataula Republican, received the backing of his GOP colleagues Thursday for a controversial measure that adds nearly 20 misdemeanor offenses that could require suspects to post bail in order get out of jail. Ross Willliams/Georgia Recorder

Republican Senators in Georgia have passed a controversial measure increasing the likelihood that people arrested for a rash of misdemeanor crimes will be required to post a cash or property bond in order to be released from jail.

With a party line vote of 30-17, the Senate approved Senate Bill 63 on Thursday, that would adds nearly 20 misdemeanor charges such as shoplifting, criminal trespass and forgery to a list of offenses that after a second charge, suspects would no longer be allowed to avoid posting cash bail or using property as collateral by if they promise to appear in court. 

Many opponents of the enhanced no-cash-bail regulations believe it will result in more overcrowding in jails since many more people will be unable to afford bail and force many others to spend more time in jail before they can appear before a judge.

Supporters claim that judges have some latitude to consider the unique circumstances associated with each case when setting a bond amount. As part of the bill, no-cash bail restrictions are not enforced on the first arrest for several non-violent offenses in order to address concerns about making first-time offenders required to post a bond.

The bill, which mandates that violent offenses like aggravated assault and rape require a suspect to post cash or property bail even as a first offense, now heads over to the House chamber.  

The measure requires a suspect to put up a specified amount of money or property as collateral if they are charged with a state crime that is punishable by a jail or prison sentence.

Republican Sen. Randy Robertson said his bill is aimed at curbing the rash of people who don’t show up to court and are more likely to reoffend after being released from jail on a signature bond.  

While serving on a special legislative committee that studied overcrowding at the Fulton County jail, Robertson said he discovered that most of the people in jail were facing charges like drug trafficking and violent gang crimes.

Too often, victims of crimes feel like the suspects are getting a free pass out of jail, Robertson said.

“Our county jails are not overpopulated with misdemeanants who cannot afford to make bond,” he said.

Sandy Springs Democratic Sen. Josh McLaurin said that the bill will result in significantly more problems in the criminal justice system compared to what its supporters claim it will solve. According to McLaurin, FBI reports showing sharp decreases in violent crimes in the last couple of years do not support those lawmakers’ tough-on-crime stances.

He said that the bail measure violates the rights of people who are merely accused of committing a crime. Judges’ main concerns regarding bail include whether a suspect is likely to pose a risk to the public and whether he or she is likely to attend court hearings, McLaurin said.

“What we are doing with this bill, is we’re continuing a years long trajectory toward deciding that the statutes of this state and entire categories of crime should determine the answer to those two questions as opposed to a judge who is sitting in the courtroom looking at the defendant face to face,” McLaurin said.

Senate Bill 63 was passed Thursday after a committee of GOP senators and House members negotiated an agreement this week on a measure that dates back to the previous session. A notable new change is a provision that would ban charities, corporations and individuals from posting cash bail more than three times a year. In addition, bail bond companies would be banned from posting cash bail for illegal immigrants. 

The Atlanta Police Department came under fire last summer after arresting several organizers with an Atlanta bail fund who used donations to bail out protesters fighting a planned Atlanta Public Safety Training Center. Atlanta Solidarity Fund organizers were arrested on money laundering and charge fraud charges, a move many criticized as payback for supporting the “Stop Cop City” movement.


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