Note: LD 1703 passed into law.

The bail system is supposed to ensure people most people can be free awaiting trial. But it’s not working: today, the majority of people in Maine jails haven’t been convicted of a crime.

We have an unequal system where some people can buy their freedom while people with limited resources sit in jail awaiting trial. This system ignores the constitutional promise that people be treated as innocent until proven guilty, and that justice not depend on what is in a person’s wallet. It devastates the lives of people who lose their jobs, their homes, and even custody of their children while sitting in jail waiting for their day in court. And it is enormously expensive to Maine taxpayers, who foot the bill of holding people in jail.

This bill would make key reforms to Maine’s bail code, strengthening the due process protections of people accused of crimes. It would also require a bail commissioner or judge to take into account when setting bail whether a person is a primary caretaker, whether the person might lose their job, and whether they have health care needs that would be better met outside of jail. Finally, the bill would eliminate cash bail for most of the lowest level offenses, like drinking in public and low-level drug possession.  

Sponsors

Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross

Session

130

Bill number

LD 1703

Position

Support

1. Testimony

Q.Testimony
A.

On Friday, May 21, the ACLU of Maine offered testimony in support of LD 1703. It read, in part:

"LD 1703 addresses the stark reality that detention prior to trial is no longer the carefully limited exception in Maine, and the right to a presumption of innocence is under threat. The rights to physical liberty and presumption of innocence are two of the most important pillars of our criminal justice system. They provide vital safeguards against tyranny and the arbitrary exercise of state violence. You have a right to a trial and to not be punished unless found guilty. Yet the majority of people in Maine jails have not had a trial and are in fact being punished before any conviction."

Read the complete testimony here.

2. Press

3. Editorial

Q.Editorial