Defense attorney Marika Meis argues that cash-only bail is against the law and that courts must set at least two forms of bail, which normally includes various types of bonds and a credit card.
“Cash-only bail is the most onerous form of bail,” Meis said. “It is a minority of judges who set bail at cash only but it is still a common practice.”
Meis represented Shaun McManus, who was arrested on a misdemeanor charge in March 2009 while already facing a felony arson charge in the Bronx. The judge set a cash only bail of $20,000. McManus was unable to meet the cash only bail and Meis argues that it violated McManus’ rights and resulted in his illegal detention.
According to New York Criminal Procedure Laws § 520.10, the following are the authorized forms of bail:
- Insurance company bail bond
- Secured surety bond
- Secured appearance bond
- Partially secured surety bond
- Partially secured appearance bond
- Unsecured surety bond
- Unsecured appearance bond
- Credit Card
The relevant section of New York Criminal Procedure Law (Section 520.10 (2)) says:
The methods of fixing bail are as follows:
- (a) A court may designate the amount of the bail without designating the form or forms in which it may be posted. In such case, the bail may be posted in either of the forms specified in paragraphs (g) and (h) of subdivision one;
- (b) The court may direct that the bail be posted in any one of two or more of the forms specified in subdivision one, designated in the alternative, and may designate different amounts varying with the forms;
Meis argues that the law requires judges to set bail in at least two forms. Lower courts disagreed by ruling that judges have discretion in setting bail and that the law does mandate two or more forms of bail.
The New York Court of Appeals will hear arguments on whether setting bail as cash only violates New York Criminal Procedure Law.