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Study finds bias in how bail is determined

Black defendants in Missouri and throughout the country are more likely to be detained while their legal cases play out. They also tend to receive higher bail amounts than white defendants. Research has shown this to be true regardless of whether the judge is white or black. However, research has also shown that experience can play a role in overcoming racial bias in the justice system.

According to a study of cases from Philadelphia County and Miami-Dade County, racial bias was worse in South Florida. However, experienced judges were less likely to let racial stereotypes factor into their bail decisions. An experienced judge is one who has 9.5 years of experience. In addition to more training for judges with less time on the bench, other reforms could make the bail system more equitable for all defendants.

For example, using data-based risk assessments could help a judge better assess a defendant's likelihood of offending again while free. The risk that a person poses to the community is one factor that is used in determining their bail amount. However, even if bail is set at a relatively low amount, some remain in custody because they cannot afford to pay it. On average, a black defendant pays $7,281 more in bail than a white defendant.

Whether a person is charged with a felony or misdemeanor, it may be worthwhile to hire a defense attorney. An attorney may be able to help a person obtain a favorable outcome in a case. This could be done by asking for evidence to be suppressed or by hiring expert witnesses. When applicable, legal counsel may cast doubt on police or witness testimony used to charge a client with a crime.

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