LANSING, Mich., Nov. 10, 2021 — State Rep. Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) introduced legislation today to enable Michigan voters to abolish cash bail. House Joint Resolution L proposes a ballot question to require courts to release pretrial defendants unless a hearing finds that they are highly likely to willfully flee, pose a specific threat to a person, are charged with a violent felony, or have violated a protection order or condition of release. Courts would still be able to place non-monetary conditions on release to ensure appearance at trial or to protect a specific person from harm. However, a cash bond would not be allowed.
“Our justice system is supposed to presume people are innocent until they are proven guilty. But cash bail sentences those who are struggling financially to lose their livelihoods, their homes, and even their kids before they even get a trial,” Rabhi said. “There’s just no way to reform a system where you only get the justice you can afford to pay for.”
If HJR L passes both chambers of the Michigan Legislature by a two-thirds vote, voters would have the chance to adopt it as an amendment to the state constitution. A constitutional change is necessary because the Michigan Constitution currently allows courts to require “sufficient sureties,” understood to include monetary bond, when granting pretrial release. Although legislation to reform pretrial detention has been passed in several states, Illinois recently became the first state to abolish cash bail.