SAN ANTONIO – Recent shootings involving San Antonio police officers and suspects with a criminal history are raising concerns about the system used to determine how suspects get bail.
St. Mary’s Univesity Professor Emeritus Gerald Reamey says denying bail to anyone arrested is illegal. He said magistrate judges must consider several factors when deciding how bail is set.
“Judges are always trying to find the right combination. ‘How can we protect the public and at the same time not throw somebody in jail and keep them there? Who hasn’t been found guilty of anything yet?’” Reamey said.
He said judges must consider a suspect’s prior convictions and how much the person can afford to pay on bail.
Reamey said a judge also has to make an educated decision on whether they believe the person will commit another crime if released.
“These are difficult decisions. We are not going to get it right every time. We are going to make the best decision we can, given the information that we have at the time. And most of the time, it works out just the way it should,” he explained.
Assistant professor of law Michael Smith warns the community that any reform following the recent events could have drastic, far-reaching consequences for everyone ever arrested, not just hard criminals.
“We should be careful about taking these dramatic instances and trying to shape a wide range of pervasive policy based on these instances,” Smith said.
Smith added that there’s also danger in looking at someone’s prior arrests without convictions, presuming everyone is innocent until proven guilty.
In 2022, Texas lawmakers passed a law requiring Justices of the Peace to undergo magistrate training, a refresher course on how a bond is set and when bail can be denied.
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