Cities Across America are Voting To Overhaul Municipal Court Bail System 

One neighborhood at a time, the streetlight fixtures of the city of Birmingham are being replaced. Through a partnership with Alabama Power, there have been nearly 6.700 fixtures upgraded in the communities of Birmingham. It was last April when the partnership was announced and as it was concluded by “Brighter Birmingham”, there will be about 30,000 light fixtures to be upgraded in the Magic City.


An article by states that “Some 99 neighborhoods will reap the benefits of these improvements, which include better lighting quality, greater energy efficiency and reduced maintenance.

City leaders and law enforcement officers point to another possible benefit – reduced crime – since the LED lights more accurately display colors and objects.”

According to the Municipal Lighting account manager, Terrance Moultrie, “We initially worked with the city to identify high-crime areas across the city of Birmingham. We installed LED lights in these areas first. We then moved into the neighborhoods and are on schedule to complete this project by December of 2018.”

This is no doubt, one great improvement not only for the city’s appearance especially at night, but also in terms of the city’s crime-fighting crusade. Having bright lights in high-crime areas can greatly reduce the occurrence of crime, if not totally stop it. It is common knowledge that most criminals are more confident to commit crimes in the dark.

When it comes to upgrades and reforms, one of the most talked-about is the issue about the cash-bail system. In fact, some cities are now implementing a new and improved bail system.

The reform will apply to both the municipal and traffic courts. This ordinance, which was introduced by Council member Susan Guidry in September, was established in order to tackle various arguments and concerns among legal and civil rights groups saying that the bail system for minor offenses existing is very unfair and punishes the poor defendants only. Now, Municipal court judges are free to set bail ranging from $150 for minor offenses and for serious ones about $2,500. Of the 35 different offenses handled at the court, few prisoners can be automatically released without bail.

In a recent article by“After a tie vote in September, the City Council unanimously approved a bail reform ordinance Thursday during a city council meeting.” Many of these same people are ones who believe the current bail system is unfair


Initially, the article states that, “In September, Guidry proposed expanding automatic release to cover nearly all municipal offenses, except arrests for domestic violence, battery and carrying an illegal weapon. In those instances, judges would evaluate the case within 24 hours and set a bail amount after taking into account a defendant’s ability to pay.”

There were a few concerns about the plan from Guidry’s colleagues as well as the municipal court judges and bail bondsmen. Some worries, according to the article are that “automatic release rules could free repeat offenders who might then commit the same crimes again. Others argued there could be an increase in offenders skipping trial dates.”

This resulted to a 2-2 deadlock which led Guidry to promise a plan revision next time.

And so, according to the article, “The version unanimously approved Thursday was agreed upon after talks among council members, judges and law enforcement officials, Guidry said. It applies distinct bail rules to several groups of arrestees, depending on their background and the offense they are accused of committing.”

To be more specific, the article states that “Those arrested on counts of animal cruelty, assault, criminal trespassing, disturbing the peace and criminal property damage can be immediately freed but must appear in court within 24 hours. 

There will be special rules for repeat offenders and no-shows. If someone awaiting trial is arrested and detained on another charge or doesn’t show up for a scheduled court date on the initial charge, they will have to stay in jail — once in custody — until a hearing. Repeat no-shows could be subject to bail.”

Furthermore, the article states that “Special conditions also apply to defendants who are deemed to pose a flight risk or imminent danger to someone else. In those cases, a judge must impose “the least restrictive, non-financial” release conditions, such as a peace bond or stay-away order, the law states. A judge can’t attach a fine to that order if a defendant does not have the money to pay it.

Even defendants in that group who do have the cash will face no more than a $2,500 bail amount. And any bail schedule the judges set must be consistent with state law, Williams said.”

Also, according to Guidry, this reform is expected to impact taxpayers positively. “I think this will tremendously benefit the taxpayers of New Orleans,” she said. “We’ll no longer be paying to make people sit in jail, for crimes they’ve not yet been convicted of.”

Whether the upgrades and reforms made are pertaining to a city’s crime fighting campaign or on the improvement of its justice system, it should definitely benefit taxpayers because they deserve to live in a safe community that fairly serves justice for all.


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