House Republicans propose crackdown on cities with cashless bail, soft-on-crime policies.
With the city government of New York poised at the moment to issue its first-ever “cashless bail bond” after the arrest of Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former attorney, for his role in a real estate fraud scheme, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has launched a sweeping new bill that would make such practices illegal in all 50 states.
The bill, introduced by New York Representative Jerry Nadler and six other House members, would make it illegal to offer financial assistance to someone who fails to appear in court. In addition, the proposal would make it illegal to use any city money to give cash or cash equivalent to someone held in jail.
Nadler and his six co-sponsors — California’s Ted Lieu, Illinois’ Dan Lipinski, Connecticut’s Chris Murphy, Maryland’s Elijah Cummings, New Jersey’s Rep. Josh Gottheimer, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, and Florida’s Ron DeSantis — argue that cities that offer bail, bail-bonds, or other forms of cashless aid to defendants are violating the U.S. Constitution and Congress’s prohibition of using municipal or federal money as a means of punishing a person not “honestly” convicted of a crime.
“We are trying to change the way the Constitution has been interpreted and the way we enforce its prohibition on using taxpayer funds as punishment,” Nadler said in an interview.
The bill, which includes an amendment prohibiting cities from issuing or requiring bail, appears unlikely to pass the full House.
Trump administration officials have argued that bail — the process that involves an inmate promising to appear in court when ordered — is a crucial tool to ensure public safety, as the person in question would be given an extension on the amount of time he or she must remain in jail if found guilty of a crime.
Cities use a variety of bail-option options, including cash-only bail, to distribute the limited funds available in the justice system. But cities do not currently prohibit bail in a bid to avoid the constitutional objection to using a city’s money for such purposes.
When a criminal defendant is arrested but fails to show up in court, police can then ask the court for a “certificate of