Posted 3/1/2015

 In Kraft v. State, 2015 WL 548231 (Fla.App. February 11, 2015) the defendant was convicted of one count, a third degree felony, and asked to be released on bond pending sentencing.  The record showed no prior criminal history, no mandatory minimum sentence, no evidence she was a flight risk or a danger to the community, and extensive ties to the community.  The trial court refused to consider release on bond pending sentencing.  The defendant filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, which the Court treated as one for mandamus.  The Court held that the trial court had discretion but on the record it had refused to exercise that discretion.  Mandamus is appropriate to compel the exercise of discretion, and the Court granted mandamus to compel the trial court to exercise its discretion.  The Court also stated, however, that under the facts of the case “If the record was clear that the judge had silently exercised such discretion, we would find that action arbitrary and capricious under the circumstances of this case.”

Commonwealth v. Carman, 2015 WL 737948 (Ky. February 19, 2015) rejected the apparent practice in Jefferson County of allowing ex parte contacts to modify conditions of release.  The Court stated, “judges are prohibited from engaging in ex parte communications to change the conditions of a defendant’s release after the initial fixing of bail, such a practice being another clear violation of SCR 4.300, Canon 3(B)(7).”

In Olibas v. Dodson, 2015 WL 703910 (5th Cir. February 19, 2015) bail agents sued the Sheriff of Brewster County, Texas for Constitutional violations.  The plaintiffs alleged that the defendant placed such onerous conditions on their ability to write bonds that they were effectively prevented from doing business in the County.  The plaintiffs alleged that the onerous conditions were in retaliation for their complaints to the County Court judge (in violation of their First Amendment rights) and were more onerous than conditions placed on their competitors (in violation of the Equal Protection clause).  The district court dismissed the claims, and the plaintiffs appealed.  The Court affirmed the district court because neither the complaint nor the summary judgment record supported the plaintiffs’ contention that their complaints to the County Court were related to the Sheriff’s actions or that they were treated differently from their competitors.

People v. Lennon, 2015 WL 774653 (N.Y.A.D. February 25, 2015) affirmed denial of even partial remission of the bond forfeiture.  The Court held that the trial court properly exercised its discretion and noted that the surety had not shown that (1) the defendant’s absence was anything but deliberate and willful, (2) that the indemnitors would suffer a severe hardship by virtue of the forfeiture, or (3) that the People had not been prejudiced.

In Shannon v. Commonwealth, 2015 WL 798796 (Va. February 26, 2015) the defendant was charged with crimes for which there was a presumption against bail pursuant to Va. Code §19.2-120(B).  The trial court nevertheless set bail at $60,000 and the Commonwealth appealed.  The Court of Appeals vacated the Order granting bail and ordered incarceration of the defendant pending trial.  The Virginia Supreme Court awarded the defendant an appeal, but on the merits affirmed the Court of Appeals.  The defendant was a registered sex offender, and the crimes charged were violent sex offenses.  The Court thought that the defendant’s status as a registered sex offender should have been given substantial weight and the Court of Appeals did not err in concluding that on the record the trial court abused its discretion.