Alcorn, Sage, Schwartz &
Magrath LLP

'Criminal Rule 26' soon to change Indiana's justice system

Bail for criminal defendants around the nation has become a hugely debated issue -- but not for the reason you might think.

Many defense attorneys and civil rights advocates believe that the cash bail system is unfair. By allowing those who can afford to pay for bail (or, at least, a bail bondsman's services), the system creates two classes of defendants. There's a group that can afford to keep their lives relatively intact while they await trial and another group that often ends up sitting in jail for months while the wheels of justice slowly turn around.

Criminal Rule 26 is a step toward changing that. As of Jan. 1, 2020, criminal court judges will be able to use a risk assessment scale to determine if a defendant should be granted the opportunity to go home prior to trial -- bail-free. Some of the factors judges may be able to consider include things like the type of crime that's alleged, prior criminal history, the defendant's relationship to his or her community, any drug or alcohol addictions, educational level, social support and more.

While Criminal Rule 26 does not mandate judges to release prisoners on their promise to return for trial, it does give them the option. Being outside of jail while awaiting trial can help a defendant gain the upper hand in a trial. There's less pressure to take a plea deal to simply get on with life. It's also easier for a defendant to participate in his or her own defense -- without trying to communicate with his or her attorney from a prison cell.

It's important to remember that -- should you ever be accused of a crime -- you need every tactical advantage you can get. An experienced defense attorney is usually a wise investment in your future.

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