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New Bill Would Require Implementation of Risk Assessment Analysis When Setting Bail

April 07, 2022

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

Last month, Senator Camera Bartolotta reported plans to introduce a law, known as Tierne’s Law, which would give judges more options when setting bail for those charged with domestic violence. Having a criminal record with a domestic violence conviction can make it much more difficult to secure employment, find housing, and take advantage of educational opportunities down the road. If you have been charged with a criminal offense, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can explain your legal options.

Risk Assessment Factors

Judges are currently directed to primarily assess a defendant’s flight risk when setting bail at the pre-trial level, which includes an analysis of:

  • The nature of the charged offense;
  • The defendant’s employment status and history;
  • The defendant’s financial condition;
  • The nature of the defendant’s family relationships;
  • The length and nature of the defendant’s residence in the community;
  • The defendant’s age, character, reputation, and mental condition;
  • Whether the defendant failed to appear in the past or attempted to avoid arrest or prosecution;
  • The defendant’s prior criminal record; and
  • Whether the defendant has ever used false identification.

If the new bill becomes law, it would grant Magisterial District Judges the discretion to use a risk assessment tool to determine whether a defendant poses a danger to a victim when setting bail in domestic violence cases that have not yet gone to trial. Using this framework, the judges would have the ability to set a bail amount or not grant bail based on a series of factors, rather than just a suspect’s flight risk. These factors would include:

  • Prior criminal records;
  • The seriousness of past crimes;
  • Whether the defendant has ever violated a protection from abuse (PFA) order;
  • Whether the charged offense is violent in nature;
  • The offender’s age; and
  • Whether the defendant has a history of drug or alcohol abuse.

Based on these factors, judges could give defendants two scores, one for their likelihood of committing a crime and one for their risk of failing to appear in court. Theoretically, the risk assessment analysis would also flag those with an elevated risk of violence.

Electronic Monitoring Devices

The senator is also co-sponsoring another bill that would expand the use of electronic monitoring devices if a judge determines that the defendant poses a substantial risk of violating a PFA order. Although the use of electronic monitoring would not be made mandatory, it would be an option for the judge to consider. Furthermore, the law would also require law enforcement officers to respond when ankle monitors worn by people with PFA orders against them are activated.

Contact us Today to Speak With an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with committing domestic violence or another criminal offense, please contact van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim in Philadelphia. You can reach us by calling (215) 486-0123 or by initiating a live chat with a member of our dedicated legal team and we’ll help you schedule a consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can evaluate your case.



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