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Courts and Crime

Cash Bail Eliminated for Certain Crimes Under New Maine Law

Civil liberties advocates are cheering a new law that reforms Maine's bail system — and eliminates cash bail completely for certain crimes.

The policy eliminates cash bail for certain low-level Class E misdemeanors, such as driving with a suspended license.

Meagan Sway, the policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, says she's seen people lose custody of their kids, or lose their jobs, because they couldn't pay their way out on bail.

"And so we know that this is having an effect, where people are sort of further impoverished by the fact that they can't pay their way out," Sway says.

Sway describes the new law as a small but meaningful step, and her organization would like to see the cash bail system changed for other crimes in the state.

"Cash bail is one of the first points in the system where the kind of resources a person has — how much money they have, whether they have a job, whether their family has money — can determine their freedom from jail. Or whether they have to stay behind bars, waiting for their day in court," Sway says.

The new law also requires that judicial officers consider a person's health care needs, employment and caregiving responsibilities when setting bail.