a.) Facts: Petitioners were arrested in California. Indictments charged the 12 members of the Communist Party with conspiring to violate the Smith Act. Upon their arrest, bail was fixed for each in varying amounts ($2,500; $7,500; $75,000; and $100,000). Following his arrest in Southern District of New York, petitioner Schneiderman moved to have his bail reduced before his removal to California. It was reduced to $50,000. Govn moved to increase bail of other petitioners. Bail was fixed in Southern District of California in the uniform amount of $50,000 for each petitioner. P’s moved to reduce bail claiming it was excessive under 8th Amendment. In support of their motion, they submitted statements as to their financial resources, family relationships, health, prior criminal records, etc. Govn proffered a certified record showing 4 people previously convicted under the act had forfeited bail but did not proffer any proof of relationship between those 4 and the petitioners.
b.) Proc Disposition: Trial court denied defendant’s motion to reduce bail.
c.) Issue: whether bail fixed at $50,000 based on the character of the offense and forfeiture of bail by other defendants in separate proceedings is excessive in light of the crime charged.
d.) Held: Yes
e.) Rule: Under the 8th Amendment, bail must be reasonably fixed to ensure a defendant will appear at trial based on the specific facts of the crime charged and not the character of the crime.
f.) Rationale: “federal law has unequivocally provided that a person arrested for a non-capital offense shall be admitted to bail.”Defendants have a right to freedom before conviction to prepare a defense. It is conditioned about the accused giving adequate assurance that he will stand trial and submit himself to sentence if found guilty. The function of bail is limited to assurance that the defendant will appear to face the charges. Bail set above an amount reasonably likely to assure appearance is excessive in light of the 8th amendment. Thus, the reasonableness of the bail must be determined on a case by case basis.
g.) Application: The bail for each petitioner has been fixed in a sum much higher than that usually imposed for offenses with like penalties, and the govn offered no factual showing to justify such action in this case. The government is essentially asking the courts to depart from the norm by assuming that without the introduction of evidence, each petitioner is a pawn in a conspiracy and will flee the jurisdiction at their superior’s command. To infer this based solely on the indictment sans factual evidence is arbitrary.
a.) #7 on page 773 – an indigent has a constitutional right to assistance of counsel at all critical stages of a criminal prosecution. However, the Supreme Court has never held that the initial appearance before a magistrate – when pretrial release decisions are made – is such a critical stage.
b.) #8 on page 773-74 – Bail theory is based on the assumption that a defendant has property or assets. Bandy v. U.S. (U.S. 1960) “It would be unconstitutional to fix excessive bail to assure that a defendant will not gain his freedom. Stack v. Boyle. Yet in the case of an indigent defendant, the fixing of bail in even a modest amount may have the practical effect of denying him release.” (Justice Douglas). Interestingly enough, no pretrial release system has ever been invalidated on the ground that non-indigents can pay for their freedom but indigents can’t.
6.) Class notes:
a.) Stack v. Boyle shows that the govn can have other legitimate interests aside from securing appearance, but the amount has to be reasonable in light of the purpose of the bail.
(1) What kind of consideration did the Court make?
b.) Presumption in Florida is that everyone should be released with the least onerous burdens of release conditions.
(1) Pugh v. Rainwater, 557 Fed. 2d. 1189 – case that looks at our bond scheme & says that the bail scheme in Florida would be unconstitutional unless it obligated the judge to prefer less onerous financial burdens to money bails.
c.) Are there exceptions? Do we always have to release people?
(1) If you can show that you wouldn’t be able to secure the appearance or if the public safety was at risk (18 USC 3141)
(2) Florida – preventive :
(a) Fugitives from justice – if you’re wanted in another jurisdiction, you can be held.
(b) If the possible sentence is life in prison or death
(c) Most pretrial detentions = when there are no conditions which can reasonably protect the safety from physical harm, assure appearance of defendant, and assure the integrity of the CJS