Bail, Bond, & Reform in Minnesota

MN Bail Reform & Why You Need an Attorney If Charged with a Crime

The Court often makes decisions on the fly when it sets bail or bond. A Judge doesn’t know what he/she isn’t told. If the Court is unaware of your ties to the community, employment and/or lack of a criminal history, the Court might set bail or bond that is financially unattainable or difficult for you to pay. Having an attorney who is experienced in criminal defense helps to ensure that the judge will have all the necessary information in order to send you home on your own recognizance or with a minimal bail, if possible.

What's the Difference Between Bail and Bond in MN?

  • BAIL is money that is paid directly to the Court. If an individual posts bail, they will have that money returned so long as they make all of their court dates and abide by conditions of release.
  • BOND is a private agreement between the defendant and a bonding company, often referred to a bondsman. The bonding company agrees to post a bond for the entire amount and the defendant agrees to pay the bonding company a percentage of the total amount, typically 10%, and have someone else co-sign for the balance. Occasionally, a bonding company will agree to a payment plan for the 10% payment. Most bonding companies will require proof that the co-signer has the assets to pay the entire amount if the defendant fails to return to court or violates conditions of release. This proof can include assets like a motor vehicle, boat, house or sufficient income to prove that the bonding company will be paid if the defendant absconds. The initial 10% payment of a bond is never returned to the defendant or his family.

What is the Reason for Bail?

Historically the imposition of bail has been aimed at achieving two goals:

  1. That the defendant remains law abiding and is not a risk to public safety; and
  2. That the defendant continues to come to court while the case is pending. In Minnesota

There is a presumption that a person will be “released on personal recognizance or an unsecured appearance bond unless a court determines that release endanger public safety or will not reasonably ensure the defendant’s appearance.” Minn. R. Crim. P. 6.02, subd. 1.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t occur frequently enough outside the context of low level offenses. Instead, many judges reflexively agree to set bail in the amount that the government requests without addressing the legal obligations set out by the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure. If the Court finds that the defendant is a risk to public safety or unlikely to appear in Court, the judge may set conditions of release. Minn. R. Crim. P. 6.02 directs the judge to consider the following options order:

  1. Place the defendant under the supervision of a person, who, or an organization that, agrees to supervise;
  2. Place restrictions on travel, association or residence during release;
  3. Require an appearance bond, cash deposit, or other security; or
  4. Impose other conditions necessary to assure appearance as directed.

Frequently, the Court skips past the first two considerations and simply moves on to requiring a cash deposit or other security along with additional conditions.

What a MN Court Considers When Setting Bail / Financial Conditions of Release:

A Court in Minnesota is directed to consider the following factors when setting financial conditions of release:

  1. The nature and circumstances of the offense charged;
  2. The weight of the evidence;
  3. (C) Family ties;
  4. Employment;
  5. Financial resources;
  6. Character and mental condition;
  7. Length of residence in the community;
  8. Criminal convictions;
  9. Prior history of appearing in court;
  10. Prior flight to avoid prosecution;
  11. The victim’s safety;
  12. Any other person’s safety;
  13. The community’s safety.

Unsecured Appearance Bond & Release on Personal Recognizance (RPR)

Over the course of 15 years as an attorney, I've never seen a Court order an unsecured appearance bond in MN state court. This is a practice that is regularly used in federal court. For example, when Paul Manafort was indicted, the Court set his bond in the amount of $10 million dollars. However, he was not required to post any of this money in order to remain out of custody. Instead, it is an appearance bond which means that if he were to abscond, he would then have to pay the Court the money, but he is not required to pay anything upfront in order to secure his release. Instead, the Court set conditions such as turning over his passports and remaining on Electronic Home Monitoring (EHM).

A release on personal recognizance (RPR) is far more common in state court. In this circumstance, an individual does not need to pay money to be released, but instead, depending on the charge(s), must follow certain rules, like agreeing to return to court, remaining abstinent from drugs and alcohol, and avoid having contact with the alleged victim. An RPR is the norm in many misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors and some low level felonies.

Unfortunately, bail and bond are the norm in most other cases.

What Happens if You Can't Post Bail or Bond Out of Jail in Minnesota?

The problem is, many individuals simply aren’t able to afford to post bond – particularly when the amount is set in amounts approaching tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Ask yourselves whether you have thousands of dollars readily available to pay to the Court or a bonding company. If you do, do you have sufficient assets to prove to the bonding company that you could pay the remaining 90%?

Individuals without assets have to remain in jail while their case proceeds through the system. This creates a Catch-22 for them. Do they remain in jail to fight charges that aren’t true or are overblown or plead guilty in order to get out of jail, back to work and back to the family? This system essentially turns the constitutional concept of the presumption of innocence on its head. Money that is spent on bail also limits someone’s ability to hire the attorney of their choice.

Bail Reform & Requirement to Release from Custody

Many states have recognized the inherent unfairness of the bail system. As a result, they have begun pursuing bail reform that requires release from custody absent an ability by the government to establish via validated pretrial assessment tools that a defendant poses a risk to the community or a flight risk. States such as New Jersey, New Mexico and others have attempted to move towards a system that holds fewer individuals in custody during the pretrial process. In fact New Jersey has completely eliminated monetary bail. These reform efforts are often opposed by the Government and bonding companies that have a vested interest in the status quo. Having an attorney to help you avoid bail or bonding out of jail is incredibly important. 

Minnesota Bail System Gets a "C"

A recent study by the Pretrial Justice Institute gave Minnesota a “C” for its bail system. This is a clear sign that our bail system needs reform to ensure that only the most dangerous defendants and those most likely to flee remain in custody on a pretrial basis.

An Attorney May Help You Avoid Bail or Bonding Out of Jail 

The first thing you should do when charged with a crime in Minnesota is to contact a criminal defense attorney. Martin & Wagner is an experienced criminal defense firm with successful case results. Don't stand alone, we can help defend your rights. 

Call for a free 1/2  half hour consultation to discuss your case at 763-425-6330. 

Free Half Hour Initial Consultation


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