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How Release Type Affects Failure to Appear

NCJ Number
Mary T. Phillips Ph,D.
Date Published
September 2011
8 pages
This "Brief" summarizes research conducted in New York City on the effects of variations in pretrial release type on failure to appear (FTA) in court.
The types of release compared were release on recognizance (no money bail) without supervision; cash bail (posted by the defendant directly to the court cashier); and commercial bond, which is purchased from a commercial bail bondsman for a nonrefundable fee based on the amount of the bond. If the defendant fails to appear for all scheduled court dates, the bond company or its insurance underwriter is responsible for paying the court the full amount of the bond. The research provides no support for the bail industry's marketing claim that compared to other forms of pretrial release, bonds are the most effective form of pretrial release based on FTA rates. FTA rates were similar for defendants released on cash bond and those released on commercial bond. Bail was also significantly higher in the bond cases, suggesting that the court considered some of these defendants sufficiently dangerous to warrant detention. Regarding a comparison of FTA rates for defendants released on either type of bail and ROR defendants, the study found that bail in any amount over $1.00 resulted in a significantly lower predicted FTA rate compared to FTA rates for ROR defendants. The analysis controlled for a wide range of defendant and case-processing factors related to FTA rate. This report recommends that New York State bail law be amended to authorize preventive detention for dangerous defendants, subject to the due process provisions recommended by the American Bar Association. Currently, New York judges have no recourse but to set high bail when they would prefer preventive detention, access to commercial bonds means that low-income dangerous offenders may be given pretrial release. 8 figures