The brief Eighth Amendment, which forbids “excessive” bail, controls all aspects of pretrial release in Cobb County. This E-word refers not only to the initial amount of bail, but also to the conditions of pretrial release. In other words, the system must give defendants a fair chance to not only get out of jail after an arrest, but to stay out of jail until the judge’s gavel falls.
Immediate and lasting pretrial release is important for personal and legal purposes. Many bosses won’t tolerate any pretrial detention, unless it only lasts two or three hours. Pretrial detention is harmful emotionally as well as financially. Legally, many jails now sharply limit contact between attorneys and clients. So, an attorney must often prepare a defense without fully knowing the client’s side of the story.
The deck is already stacked against a Marietta criminal defense lawyer. The state has a small army of lawyers, investigators, and other professionals who don’t care about justice or fairness. They only care about notching a conviction in the win column. Pretrial detention issues, at the beginning, middle, or end of a criminal case, make an attorney’s job much tougher.
Innocent until proven guilty might be the bedrock principle of the American criminal justice system. It’s also a uniquely American principle. 90 percent of the world’s jury trials are in United States courts. “Justice” in Russia, Mexico, China, and pretty much every other country is swift and one-sided.
Extended pretrial detention flies in the face of this principle. The punishment not only comes before the conviction. In many cases, especially if the defendant is charged with a misdemeanor, pretrial detention is harsher than a punishment a judge would dole out.
There’s a financial aspect as well. Cobb County spends tens of thousands of dollars every day to house jail inmates who have technically committed no crime.
So, to fulfill the innocent-until-proven-guilty mission, and to save a few dollars along the way, Cobb County officials usually offer three jail release avenues:
- Own Recognizance: First-time offenders charged with nonviolent misdemeanors are usually eligible for OR release. If these defendants pinky-swear to follow all release conditions, they get out of jail. A Marietta criminal defense lawyer can expand the release rules in some cases.
- Bail Bond: Not many people are legally eligible for OR release. Almost everyone is legally, and financially, eligible for bail bond release. A bonding company, which is like an insurance company, promises to bear the financial risk if the defendant skips bail.
- Cash Bond: A few people are financially eligible for cash bond release. The defendant must deposit the entire bond amount in cash. Then, if the defendant follows all conditions, the defendant gets most of that money back at the end of the case.
If the financial terms are excessive, a Marietta criminal defense lawyer usually schedules a bail reduction hearing. At this hearing, a judge considers many factors to determine what’s reasonable (i.e., not excessive) under the circumstances.
Pretrial release always has strings attached. These strings usually include generic and offense-specific conditions. Boilerplate conditions usually include:
- Avoiding future legal trouble,
- Remaining in the county,
- Providing up-to-date contact information,
- Attending school and/or working full-time,
- Avoiding “injurious habits and disreputable people,”
- Supporting one’s dependents, and
- Appearing at all required court dates.
The first and last bullets are the ones most likely to trigger a bond forfeiture proceeding. More on that below.
A Marietta criminal defense lawyer usually has a say in the process. Assume Linda lives in Cobb County and works in Fulton County. So, every time she meets one condition (going to work), she violates another one (remaining in the county). Lawyers can change these conditions.
As for offense-specific conditions, let’s look at the three most common misdemeanors in Cobb County: assault, DUI, and drug possession.
Judges usually issue keep-away orders in assault cases. That’s especially true in domestic violence cases. Intent isn’t an element in these orders. If Tom happens to be at the grocery store at the same time as Lisa, Tom violates the keep-away order.
An IID (ignition interlock device) is a standard condition of bail in a DUI. A mechanic attaches a portable Breathalyzer to the vehicle’s ignition. If the defendant fails the breath test (and the BAC limit is usually .04), the vehicle won’t start.
Drug cases usually mean drug tests. Probationers are usually subject to random drug tests. Scheduled drug tests are the norm in pretrial release matters, since the defendant hasn’t been convicted of a drug crime.
Usually, the pretrial release process has a nice, happy ending. A Marietta criminal defense attorney resolves the case, usually via plea bargain, and the release agreement instantly becomes null and void. Sometimes, this process has a not-so-happy ending.
As mentioned, a new criminal case and nonappearance at court are the most common reasons for bond forfeiture. Typically, the judge revokes bond and issues a warrant without holding a hearing.
Arrest warrants have no expiration date. Generally, a law enforcement or judicial clerk adds the warrant to the defendant’s permanent record. Then, upon the next law enforcement contact, even if it’s decades later, officers arrest the defendant.
In these situations, a Marietta criminal defense lawyer usually asks for another chance, lifts the warrant, or arranges for a voluntary surrender.
From time to time, people miss important appointments, including court dates, for various reasons. Informally rescheduling a preliminary hearing usually isn’t a problem. Sometimes, usually in traffic and some misdemeanor cases, an attorney formally lifts the warrant and schedules a hearing.
Voluntary surrender is a last resort. Usually, we advise people to give themselves up at the county jail, in the middle of the day, and in the middle of the week. We also advise people to have their ducks in a row in terms of pretrial release. Therefore, in many cases, defendants don’t leave the holding cell or even the waiting room.
Permanent pretrial release jumpstarts a criminal defense. For a free consultation with an experienced Marietta criminal defense attorney, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. Virtual, home, and jail visits are available.