PERU – Miami County is set to stop requiring bonds in order to be released from jail for people charged with certain misdemeanor crimes, including possession of marijuana and public intoxication.
Starting July 1, the county won’t require a bond on seven misdemeanor charges, including possession of paraphernalia; possession of marijuana, hash oil, hashish, or salvia; illegal possession, consumption or transportation of alcohol by a minor; public intoxication; and three driving while suspended charges.
The new rule only applies to those who are not subject to any other warrant, detainer or hold. Those without a hold will be released upon their own recognizance, on the condition that the defendant appears as directed for court hearings.
The changes come after the Indiana Supreme Court issued a new directive, called Criminal Rule 26, which states all inmates must be released on bond or recognizance unless they present a risk of flight or danger to themselves or others. The directive took effect Jan. 1.
Miami Circuit Court Judge Tim Spahr said that led the county to review its bond schedule to better comply with the new rule.
He said a committee made up of prosecutors, public defenders, probation officers and sheriff’s deputies decided to do away with bonds for the seven misdemeanors because they were nonviolent crimes, and most people who are charged don’t pose a flight risk.
Previously, people arrested on those charges had to pay a $300 bond to be released from jail. Now, those arrested will automatically be released as long as they agree to appear as directed at court hearings.
Spahr said the new policy aims to stop people charged with low-level crimes from being held at the jail for days, or sometimes weeks, simply because they can’t afford a bond payment.
“There are some folks who really don’t have $300,” he said. “If they sit in jail for 90 days over a misdemeanor possession charge, how much are we paying as taxpayers for that because they couldn’t afford $300 to get out?”
Spahr said people who can’t afford to bond out of jail also have a much higher risk of losing their job and housing, and holding them would likely only make their situation worse.
“The concern is that this could actually make them worse off, and if it’s because of a fairly minor criminal case, leaving them in jail could be more harmful,” he said. “That’s part of the equation as well.”
Spahr said although the new bond schedule names seven specific misdemeanor charges, probation officers and judges can also decide to release people arrested on other misdemeanor charges on their own recognizance if they don’t pose a public safety or flight risk.
“We tried to make a bright line rule for seven offenses that the defense council, the prosecutor’s office and the courts could all agree makes sense,” he said. “We were trying to find something we could get some consensus on, and these were the offenses where we able to reach a consensus.”
Besides changing bond policies, the state’s new Criminal Rule 26 also requires probation officers to conduct an evidence-based risk assessment of every newly arrested inmate. Those assessments are used to determine if a person should be let out on bond or their own recognizance.