The State Attorney’s Office in the Ninth Judicial Circuit in Orange County is not planning to seek criminal bonds on certain “minor” criminal offenses. A bond is a financial obligation that a criminal defendant is required to pay so that they may be released from jail pending the resolution of a criminal case. The idea behind this policy decision is that it is unjust to have some people incarcerated simply because they don’t have the financial means to pay what, in most cases, is a very reasonable bond amount. Even if a Defendant invokes their right to a speedy trial they can languish for months in jail losing job opportunities as well as the ability to assist in the defense of their case.
This is all good news, right? In 2011, I wrote a law review article discussing the challenges that judges had when imposing a global positioning system (G.P.S.) as a means of pretrial restraint instead of imposing a bond. Was the Defendant a flight risk? A danger to others? It became clear very quickly that the judges were not utilizing specific criteria to make these decisions. One judge admitted to me that he used his “gut” when deciding whether to have a G.P.S. installed on a Defendant. In many cases, this was worse for the Defendant than if they had to pay a bond.
The temptation of most judges and prosecutors in these circumstances is to compensate for lack of a bond requirement with all types of pretrial conditions including curfews, “no contact with victim,” maintaining employment, while on pretrial release etc. Many of these conditions are very unduly onerous on the Defendant and completely unnecessary.
At Schwam-Wilcox & Associates we have attorneys that understand the importance of making sure that, if you are charged with a crime, that your bond and/or pretrial conditions are reasonable and do not create unnecessary legal or financial problems for you in the future.