Emory Law Journal


The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that bail, when afforded to a criminal defendant, not be excessive. However, there is no provision as to what form bail must take or how it is to be determined. Starting in the twilight of the nineteenth century, monetary conditions of bail became increasingly prevalent throughout the United States. Yet, in recent years, there has been a movement to eliminate the requirement that defendants pay their way to pretrial freedom. States have taken measures to move away from cash bail, ranging from significantly limiting its use to outright prohibitions against monetary conditions on bail. The impetus behind such reform measures is that monetary conditions on bail discriminate against lower income defendants by disparately leading to pretrial detention of individuals who cannot afford to pay the required sum. This Comment analyzes the relative success of the risk-based, nonmonetary bail systems that several states have implemented. This Comment begins by analyzing the history of the right to bail in the United States, starting with how such a right was understood at the time of the founding. Next, the evolution of the application of bail and the considerations behind pretrial release or detention determinations, are discussed. This Comment then proceeds to analyze how risk-based, nonmonetary bail systems have been codified and applied. Last, this Comment evaluates the impact that these schemes have had on the states of implementation and potential alterations that would allow for better administration of such legislation.