Presumed Innocent but stuck in jail
As the bail reform conversation continues, it is clear that State legislators, in addition to many judges and prosecutors, strongly oppose non-monetary bail. On March 11, 2018, three Senate bills aimed at moving Florida’s bail system toward those in New Mexico and New Jersey which use risk-assessment algorithms to decide who gets bail and which defendants would be released on non-monetary conditions, were rejected.
Other than those charged with capital offenses or crimes punishable by life with substantial evidence against, Florida law presumes NON-monetary bail (no money needed to get out of jail) conditions of release for all defendants granted pre-trial release. However, jails (and pre-trial detention facilities) overflowing with defendants awaiting trial and unable to afford monetary bail (and PRESUMED INNOCENT) remain the hallmark that these rules are often ignored. Section 903.046, Florida Statutes, and Rule 3.131, of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, are outlined in pertinent part below. If followed, the current law would make Motions for Reduction of Bail unnecessary.
Section 903.046, Florida Statutes: Purpose of and Criteria for Bail Determination.-
(1) The purpose of a bail determination in criminal proceedings is to ensure the appearance of the criminal defendant at subsequent proceedings and to protect the community against unreasonable danger from the criminal defendant.
Rule 3.131. Pre-Trial Release
(a) Right to Pretrial Release. Unless charged with a capital offense or an offense punishable by life imprisonment and the proof of guilt is evident or the presumption is great, every person charged with a crime or violation of municipal or county ordinance shall be entitled to pretrial release on reasonable conditions.
(b)(1) Except as otherwise provided by this rule, there is a presumption in favor of release on nonmonetary conditions for any person who is granted pretrial release.
(b)(2) The judge shall at the defendant’s first appearance consider all available relevant factors to determine what form of release is necessary to assure the defendant’s appearance. If a monetary bail is required, the judge shall determine the amount. Any judge setting or granting monetary bond shall set a separate and specific bail amount for each charge or offense. When bail is posted each charge or offense requires a separate bond.
(b)(3) In determining whether to release a defendant on bail or other conditions, and what that bail or those conditions may be, the court may consider the nature and circumstances of the offense charged and the penalty provided by law; the weight of the evidence against the defendant; the defendant’s family ties, length of residence in the community, employment history, financial resources, need for substance abuse evaluation and/or treatment, and mental condition; the defendant’s past and present conduct, including any record of convictions, previous flight to avoid prosecution, or failure to appear at court proceedings; the nature and probability of danger that the defendant’s release poses to the community; the source of funds used to post bail; whether the defendant is already on release pending resolution of another criminal proceeding or is on probation, parole, or other releasespending completion of sentence; and any other facts the court considers relevant.