Bail Reform Act of 1984 | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction

The Bail Reform Act of 1984 is a federal law that authorizes and sets forth the procedures for a judicial officer to order the release or detention of an arrested person pending trial, sentence, and appeal.

Source: Federal Judicial Center.
Source URL:$File/bailref.pdf

The Bail Reform Act of 1984 is a federal law that governs the release or detention of individuals who have been arrested and are awaiting trial, sentence, or appeal. The law provides guidelines and procedures for judicial officers to follow in making decisions regarding whether to release or detain individuals, with the goal of balancing the interests of public safety and individual liberty.

Prior to the enactment of the Bail Reform Act of 1984, the process of determining whether to release or detain individuals was largely based on the ability to pay bail. This often resulted in the pretrial detention of individuals who were unable to afford bail, even if they posed no flight risk or danger to the community.

The Bail Reform Act of 1984 sought to address these issues by establishing a more comprehensive system for determining whether to release or detain individuals. Under the law, a judicial officer must consider a range of factors in making this determination, including the nature and circumstances of the offense, the weight of the evidence against the defendant, the defendant’s history and characteristics, and the potential danger posed by the defendant to any person or the community.

In addition to these factors, the Bail Reform Act of 1984 also provides for the use of non-monetary conditions of release, such as pretrial supervision, drug testing, or travel restrictions, in lieu of detention. This allows individuals who do not pose a danger to the community or a flight risk to remain free while awaiting trial, even if they are unable to afford bail.

One of the key provisions of the Bail Reform Act of 1984 is the requirement that a judicial officer holds a hearing to determine whether an individual should be released or detained. This hearing must take place as soon as practicable after the individual’s arrest, and the individual must be given notice of the hearing and an opportunity to be heard.

The hearing must also be conducted in accordance with certain procedural requirements, including the right to counsel and the right to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses. This helps to ensure that the decision to release or detain an individual is made based on accurate and reliable information rather than on speculation or prejudice.

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Last Modified: 04/15/2023


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