Friday, September 06, 2002

right to bail and presumption of innocence

Delaware has a new bail law that went into effect in June. If a person is arrested and charged with a violent felony other than capital murder, they have a right to a reasonable bail. There's also a presumption of innocence until they are proven guilty.

If that person is then charged with another violent felony offense, and arrested, under the new law they are required to be held without bail, and the bail posted for the first offense is eligible to be forfeited. Previously, the only time bail was forfeited in Delaware was if a defendant failed to show up for court. It seems that the re-arrest may also have the effect of removing that presumption of innocence. Does the statute in effect take away the constitutional right to have bail set? The intent behind the law was to remove repeat offenders from the streets. But shouldn't judges be making the decision in the courtroom as to the amount of bail to be posted on a new offense when another charge or set of charges is still pending?

Most of the time, family members or friends of people being held on charges will go to a bailbondsman, and provide them with collateral in exchange for a bond to be posted with the court. This new law has the bailbonds companies reconsidering the idea of providing bonds in a number of cases:
Critics, including bail bond companies and civil rights activists, said the new law is unconstitutional, will make it tougher for many people to get bail and could result in more crowding in Delaware prisons. The new law also could mean families posting bail for defendants who are re-arrested would lose their homes or go deeply in debt, they said.
Please note that the article provides quotes from Delaware's Chief Public Defender Lawrence M. Sullivan, who should not be confused with Delaware Law Office's Larry D. Sullivan.

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