Racial bias can affect bail hearing outcomes

| Aug 2, 2018 | Criminal Defense

Black defendants may face racial bias in Maryland and across the country at bail hearings regardless of the race of the judge involved. This is the conclusion of a study conducted in Philadelphia and Miami that examined over 250,000 court cases in which bail was at issue. Both black and white judges were, according to the study, more likely to detain black defendants until their court hearings, a step that can have a negative impact on the perception of the defendant and the likelihood of conviction. In addition, black defendants were charged an average of $7,281 more for bail than white defendants.

The study’s authors said these figures indicate that bail judges may be relying on racial stereotype in order to estimate the risk of release for particular defendants. The bail process is supposed to identify which defendants are more likely to commit another crime or leave the area if released. However, despite black defendants being denied bail more frequently, white defendants were actually more likely to be rearrested while released on bail. Referencing other research into racial bias when setting bail, the study noted that it is likely that judges rely, even unconsciously, on racial stereotypes when evaluating the risk factors associated with a particular defendant.

The study noted that judges often make mistakes when predicting defendants’ behavior upon release on bail, and inexperienced judges were more likely to show signs of racial bias. When this leads to people being held in pretrial detention, it can negatively impact the outcome of a criminal case.

Bail hearings can have a surprisingly powerful effect on a criminal case. A criminal defense lawyer may help people facing charges from the moment of their arrest, from interviews with the police to pretrial hearings to a trial itself, in order to help prevent a conviction.