The 11th Circuit US Court of Appeals ruled money bail to be constitutional in the case of Walker vs. City of Calhoun. For as long as it’s existed, there have been arguments about the use and fairness of the cash bail system in America. And while opinions and arguments hold a valid place in a democracy, high-level federal courts have upheld bail as constitutional time and time again.
Critics of bail argue that the practice violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Act, which requires the government to provide the same rights, privileges and protections to all citizens, and that bail favors the wealthy and disadvantages the poor.
However, the Equal Protection Act does not guarantee all situations the same level of scrutiny under the law. For example, gender and race receive the highest level of scrutiny under the law, but socioeconomic class does not. This is the same reason merchants can charge more money for a better service even though it could put those who cannot pay more at a disadvantage. Ultimately, the court concluded that if socioeconomic class was treated with the same level of scrutiny as gender or race the courts would be “flooded with litigation.
In a similar case regarding the constitutionality of cash bail, the Supreme Court of Wyoming determined, “It is not necessary for a court to [fix bail] at a point that it can be made by the defendant” because “the measure is adequacy to insure [sic] appearance,” not “the defendant’s pocketbook and his desire to be free pending possible conviction.”
Critics also argue that any bail set to an amount that cannot be met by a defendant is in direct opposition to the 8th Amendment of the Constitution, which protects against excessive bail. However, the Supreme Court of Vermont concluded that “[a]lthough both the US and Vermont Constitutions prohibit excessive bail, neither this court nor the US Supreme Court has ever held that bail is excessive solely because the defendant cannot raise the necessary funds.” Put simply, a defendant’s financial inability to post bail does not make the amount excessive.
Despite constant challenges in court, the cash bail system has been consistently upheld as constitutional, championing the dominant pillar of justice systems throughout history – that the punishment fits the crime. There is no legally valid argument against the cash bail system, and to continue presenting this issue to federal courts would not only be redundant, but also unproductive.