Texas Court Of Criminal Appeals Will Consider Whether $1.5 Million Bail Is Unreasonable
The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that a court may not require “excessive bail” in criminal cases. Bail is intended to ensure a defendant appears for trial and does not attempt to flee the jurisdiction. It is not supposed to serve as a form of pretrial punishment.
Unfortunately, Keith B. French Law see too many cases of people charged with crimes–even non-violent ones–forced to languish for months or years in prison while awaiting trial simply because they are poor. This flies in the face of the “presumption of innocence” that is the basis for the American criminal justice system. And only in recent years have Keith B. French Law seen judges and policymakers start to take steps towards reforming the bail system.
Man Awaiting Trial for Over Nine Months Still Languishing in Jail
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals recently agreed to hear a case that could go a long way to helping poor defendants. On June 7, the Court granted a petition for discretionary review in Lanclos v. State, a pending criminal case. Last August, the defendant was arrested and charged with three counts of assaulting a police officer. A magistrate set the defendant’s bail at $2.25 million. The defendant did not have that kind of money and could not obtain a bail bond.
Three months passed. By December 2020, prosecutors had yet to seek an indictment against the defendant. Indeed, as of May 2021, there was still no indictment. Yet he remained in jail, unable to afford bail.
Under Texas law, if the prosecution “is not ready for trial” within 90 days of arrest, the court must release the defendant on his own promise to appear or set a bond that is “affordable to that individual.” The trial court decided to reduce the necessary bail to $1.5 million, which the defendant still could not afford. An intermediate appellate court, however, held the burden was on the defendant to prove what constituted an “affordable bond” and rejected his appeal for release or further reduction.
This prompted the defendant to seek discretionary review with the Court of Criminal Appeals. In his petition to the Court, the defendant noted the state did not dispute that he “cannot afford an extremely high bond.” Even if the defendant could find a bail bondsman, he would still need to post $150,000 to obtain a bond, which he noted was an “absurd” amount for any regular citizen.
Under the circumstances–again, noting the state has yet to secure an indictment nearly nine months after the initial arrest–the defendant has asked the Court of Criminal Appeals to either order his release on personal bond or set bail of no more than $15,000.
Contact Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer Keith B. French Today
Cases like this demonstrate how the promise of the American criminal justice system is often undermined in practice. No person should ever spend months sitting in jail before receiving a trial just because they cannot afford ludicrous bail amounts. That is why if you are placed under arrest, your first call should be to a qualified Pearland criminal defense attorney who will fight for your right to reasonable bail. Contact Keith B. French Law, PLLC, today to speak with a lawyer right away.