Deadly Dilemmas II: Bail and Crime

17 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2008 Last revised: 9 Apr 2012

Date Written: December 9, 2008


This paper examines the costs and benefits associated with current bail-granting policies and concludes that the granting of bail awaiting trial to those accused of serious crimes of violence and who have a record of prior convictions is unacceptably dangerous, accounting, among other things, for one in every ten homicides. We propose an overhaul of existing bail practices so that those accused of a violent crime have a claim on bail just in case they have two or fewer prior felony convictions. We claim that such a policy would respect both the rights of innocent defendants not to have their liberty curtailed without powerful reasons for doing so and the rights of innocent citizens not to be exposed to an unacceptably high risk of victimization by accused felons on bail. We flatly deny that pretrial liberty for those accused of a violent crime is an absolute right and refute the claim that behavior on bail is wholly unpredictable.

Keywords: bail, preventive detention, prior convictions, violent crimes, serial felons

Suggested Citation

Allen, Ronald Jay and Laudan, Larry, Deadly Dilemmas II: Bail and Crime (December 9, 2008). Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 08-44. Available at SSRN: or

Ronald Jay Allen

Northwestern University Law School ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
312-503-8372 (Phone)
312-503-2035 (Fax)

Larry Laudan (Contact Author)

University of Texas School of Law ( email )

727 East Dean Keeton Street
Austin, TX 78705
United States

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