Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion affirming a lower court’s decision not to reduce a defendant’s bail as he awaits trial for several Massachusetts sex offenses, including indecent assault and battery on a person age fourteen or older. The case highlights the challenges many defendants face—even during the COVID-19 pandemic—when trying to secure pretrial release.
Under state and federal law, courts must only consider certain factors when setting a defendant’s bail. In general, bail should not be a punishment to keep someone incarcerated while they await trial. Instead, bail should be used to secure their presence at trial. When determining what amount of bail is appropriate, courts consider the following factors:
- The nature of the offense;
- The danger the defendant poses to society;
- The defendant’s flight risk;
- Whether the defendant is employed;
- Whether the defendant has family in the area; and
- Whether the defendant has any other open cases or is on probation or parole.
To some degree, the court should also consider the defendant’s ability to pay bail. Monetary bail cannot be used to keep someone in jail just because they do not have the money to post bail. However, in reality, this is often exactly what happens.
In the recent case, the defendant’s bail was initially set at $75,000. Based on the hazardous conditions of confinement due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that he could not afford to post that amount, the defendant sought immediate release through a bail reduction. However, the court denied the defendant’s request. Upon reconsideration in front of another judge, the defendant’s bail was reduced to $25,000.
The defendant appealed the trial court’s decision not to release him or lower his bail further. Specifically, the defendant argued that he cannot afford to post $25,000 and that the extenuating circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic justified his immediate release.
However, the appellate court rejected the defendant’s arguments and kept his bail at $25,000. The court explained that a trial judge has broad discretion in setting bail, and absent an abuse of that discretion, the appellate courts will not get involved. Here, the court held that the trial court considered all the necessary evidence, including the defendant’s inability to post bail, and that its decision was not unreasonable.
Given the discretion afforded to trial judges, reducing bail on appeal does not happen often. This highlights the importance of having a dedicated Boston criminal defense attorney develop a compelling case for release.
Are You Being Held in Jail While You Await Trial?
If you are in custody awaiting trial and have been unsuccessful in getting your bail reduced, reach out to Attorney Patrick J. Murphy for immediate assistance. Attorney Murphy is a veteran defense attorney with extensive experience representing clients in some of the most serious cases, including Boston sex crimes, domestic violence offenses, and other violent crimes. He approaches every case with a deep desire to help his clients in any way he can, whether by reducing their bail, negotiating with prosecutors, or litigating in front of a judge or jury. To learn more about how Attorney Murphy can help you with your case, call 617-367-0450 to schedule a free consultation today.