Defendants charged with minor offenses in New Orleans no longer have to pay bail

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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — New Orleans City Council has voted unanimously to eliminate bail for most people charged with minor offenses, in an effort to reduce the Orleans Parish jail population.

People who qualify will now be released and given a court date with no bail and no pre-court jail time.  For more serious charges like domestic violence, battery or illegally carrying a weapon, defendants would have a first court appearance within 24 hours of the arrest.  However, in no case would bond exceed $2,500.

The Council’s unanimous vote Wednesday came after the Criminal Justice Committee failed to move the ordinance out of committee in September, following a tie vote.

Introduced by Councilmember Susan Guidry, the ordinance was developed to address concern among legal and civil rights groups that the existing bail system for minor offenses unfairly punished poor defendants.

“Looking at the amendments to the ordinance, I trust that we’ve made it acceptable to more of our community,” said Councilmember Guidry.  “I just hope that this relieves the burden and pressure on our jails. We’ve ended up in a vicious cycle of debt because of this.”

On its Facebook page, the ACLU posted, “VICTORY! We thank the New Orleans City Council for taking this crucial step. People accused of minor crimes shouldn’t be jailed just because they can’t afford bail.”