Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

A BOSTON CRIMINAL LAWYER REVIEWS THE RATIONALE BEHIND MASSACHUSETTS BAIL HEARINGS

2011 is now history in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In preparation for the changing of the year, a group called “AboutBail” compiled a list of some of the highest bail amounts throughout the country in 2011.

Let’s take a look, changing the actual names of the defendants, at seven of the ten listed:

1.19-year-old Gary Gunplay from Elgin, Illinois. He was a “known” gang member facing nine counts of felony shootings. With cases pending, Gary was stopped during an alleged traffic violation. Outstanding warrants were discovered and, despite trying to flee, he was caught. With two loaded handguns. Bail $2,250,000

2.19-year-old Gary Grabby of Glendale, California was arrested for sexually assaulting two brothers, ages 8 and 3, while babysitting. Bail: $2,700,000

3.Dave Daddykiller was a Chicago, Illinois gentleman accused of helping another gentleman kill Dave’s father. Dave had met his pal while serving time and the two allegedly bound, gagged and killed his father. The alleged murder was also found to be a violation of parole. Bail: $3,000,000, until the parole violation hearing, when he was held without bail.

4.Sheldon Shopper of Chicago, Illinois, was accused of stabbing three people at a Walmart. Under the influence of narcotics, he is claimed to have entered the store with a nine-inch butcher’s knife and stabbing three people with it. He was charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault. Bail: $3,000,000.

5.Billy Bullets was a Knoxville, Tennessee man who was arrested for theft, aggravated assault, felony murder and first degree murder. Apparently, Mr. Bullets went to a pawn shop and asked to see an unloaded shotgun. “seeing it” ended up resulting in his loading it with ammunition he had brought with him and shooting the employee who was helping him. Bail: $4,000,000.

6.Ricky Robber was a Fayette County, Indiana gent who actually failed at his attempt at robbing a CVS store. According to the government, he wore a wig, glasses and mustache (and a gun) at the robbery scene. They also say that said items were found in the home in which he was staying…along with blood-spattered clothing and a gun that “may have” been used to murder five people. Believed to be a flight risk, bail was set at $5,000,000

7.Dilbert Diplomat was a well-known French national and former head of the International Monetary fund. He was grabbed on charges of attempted rape, sexual abuse, forcible touching, unlawful imprisonment and a criminal set act. The complainant used to be an unknown Manhattan housekeeper. His bail conditions amounted to $6,000,000

The government then dropped the charges against him because they decided the complainant was not believable..

Attorney Sam’s Take On The Rationale Of Bail

Looking at these rather high bail amounts might give you the idea that there is little, if any, consistency when it comes to the mandating of bail amounts. For example, one would expect the bail for murder to be higher than someone accused of attempted robbery or even sexual assault.

The fact is that even the inconsistency of bails demanded is inconsistent. There are, however, some guidelines underlying the factors that judges’ consider when ruling in, for example, a Massachusetts bail hearing.

First of all, understand the historic reason for bail. The defendant is supposed to be presumed innocent at that point. The only issue is whether that defendant will show up in court so that the government will have its opportunity to change that presumption.

Many new clients think that they are all set in addressing this issue. They give me and, unless I stop them, the court a solemn look and say, “oh, don’t you worry. I will show up, I want to show up. Why wouldn’t I show up?”. What they seem not to realize is that everybody promises to return. However, substantial numbers of criminal defendants do not show up…albeit for varying reasons.

In a pure and honest world, such representations might be enough. After all, in most cases, the only reason to demand high bail is the existence of the criminal charges at issue. But if the defendant is presumed innocent, why should such accusations be a reason to not believe the defendant’s promise and release everyone on their own recognizance ?

Well, it turns out that many things are considered indicative, one way or another, of whether the defendant is likely to return to court or simply skip town.

One of them, of course, is whether the particular defendant has had any previous trouble with the law. If the defendant has a long record, then he may be looking at a longer sentence if convicted, hence more reason to flee. In connection with that, you do not need an experienced Boston criminal lawyer to tell you that any previous defaults in that history will be weighted heavily as evidence that the defendant is not completely dependable when it comes to returning to court.

The court also considers whether the defendant has strong community ties. The reasoning is that if the defendant is simply blowing through town, then she has less of a reason to stay and face the music. When one owns property locally, has a lot of family nearby and has a career in town, then the thought is that she is more likely to want to stay around and clear her name. “Where is she going to go?”, is the argument. “Her life is here.”

The wealth is often a consideration as well. For example, $10,000 bail may as well be $10,000,000 to some people in that, should they somehow beg, borrow or steal the money to post the bail, they are never going to simply skip town and let the government keep the funds. However, a very wealthy person may see $10,000 as a mere pittance, the logic goes, and so be more willing to abandon the funds.

Finally, the court considers the seriousness and strength of the crimes charged. The thought is that folks are more likely to hang around and battle a Massachusetts drunk driving case than accusations of molesting several kids in a locker room. On the other hand, the strength of the accusations is considered as well. Clearly, a weaker prosecution case will worry a defendant less than a case that looks like there is little or no chance for an acquittal.

That last consideration is an interesting one when it comes to reality. First of all, since we are supposed to be assuming innocence, I find it problematic to give a great deal of weight to the proposed strength of a case because there is really no way for a judge to judge it. That is what trials and the road leading up to them is for. Often, the weaknesses cannot be found out until the defense is allowed to look at the Commonwealth’s case. However, bail is decided prior to any such chance. Further, the reasoning assumes that a defendant will be able to judge how strong the case is. Generally, that is not a safe assumption. I have seen defendants who are sure that they are going to “beat” a case that is really rock-solid. I have also seen defendants who feel that both the state and federal government is involved in a no-holds-barred conspiracy to “get” them…even though they are facing rather weak misdemeanor charges.

You will find, whether looking nationally or locally, that bails vacillate with every case, every defendant and every judge. There is no “one size fits all”. The only general exception to this is the charge of First Degree Murder. In such cases, at least in the Commonwealth, the defendant is usually held without bail.

We have also discussed “Dangerousness Hearings” and preventative detection when the Commonwealth contends that a given defendant is a danger to the community and so should be held without bail. This is a different proceeding, however, and so will not be addressed in today’s blog.

In order to view the original article upon which today’s blog is based, please go to http://www.aboutbail.com/agent-center/collateral/917/largest-bail-amounts-2011

Contact Information