Appeals Court Hears Arguments on Harris County Bail

Oral arguments are heard in a class-action case involving Harris County's bail system.

The case before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals involves three low-level offenders who claim they were denied the right to bail because they simply could not afford it, so they were stuck behind bars without a hearing.

“What this case is really about is meaniful consideration of somebody's ability to pay and the timing that, and there's some dispute over when that happens,” says says Jeff Clayton, executive director of of the American Bail Coalition.

Clayton questions whether the constitution should require a hearing within 24 hours and if not, is the inmate entitled to an immediate release on bond.

The county contends 24 hours is not enough time to determine pre-trial alternatives.

“Eighty-three percent of these cases are done within 24 hours, so I don't think these judges are going to go for that,” says Clayton.  “It's either on and you have to do it, or it's off.  Really it's all about consideration, not instantaneous release and there's no consideration.

A ruling is expected in the next 30 to 60 days.

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