New bail reform policy in Orange, Osceola counties takes effect

Nonmonetary release to be recommended for nonviolent offenders

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – As he walked out of the Orange County jail and to the bus stop on John Young Parkway on Friday, Artevin McNair, 24, was all smiles. Pleasantly surprirsed, he said, that he didn't have to pay a bond. 

"I thought I had to pay and I was like, 'I'm fittin' to be in here for a little while.' Then all of a sudden they just came and got me and said I didn't have to pay anything," McNair said.

Thursday night, he said he was arrested on a trespassing charge and was told his bond was going to be $600 but he didn't have to pay. 

It happened on the same day Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala's new bail reform policy went into effect. 

Now, prosecutors will begin recommending nonmonetary release for nonviolent offenders.

Officials said in a news release last month that the revised policy applies to individuals who do not pose a threat to the community and who give no indication that he or she will miss future court dates. 

“Economic bias has no place in our justice system,” Ayala said. “By primarily relying on money, our bail system has created a poverty penalty that unjustifiably discriminates against those without resources to pay. Our focus must be on public safety, not on wealth.” 

She listed low-level, nonviolent crimes including possession of marijuana, driving with a suspended license, panhandling, loitering and disorderly conduct as possible instances where the new policy could be applied.

"It's good, though, that took place," McNair said. "A lot of people go in on a lot of things that is not even big and they just sit in there."

However, not everyone thinks it's a great idea. Quincy Adams, who owns Quick Release Bail Bonds across the street from the jail, said the new policy is going to hurt his businesses since he said 80 percent of his bonds come from minor charges. 

"The majority is the small bonds and that's how we eat, that's how we keep the lights on, you know?" Adams said. "I don't know where they came up with that, who thought of this idea but I think it's a very bad one."

Ayala was not available to answer questions about the program and also couldn't say how many people it impacted on Friday.