Missouri’s new rules on setting bond for criminal defendant’s went into effect on July 1–and some last minute tweaks by the Missouri Supreme Court might avoid some logistical problems that could have arisen.
Judge’s Must First Consider Non-Monetary and Least Restrictive Conditions
The most prominent aspect of the new bond regime is that, in general, once a suspect is arrested and confined, judges have an explicit 48-hour deadline to set bond at an initial appearance, whether in-person or on video. In that bond setting, a judge must first consider imposing conditions of release that are non-monetary and as unrestrictive as possible in order to secure the defendant’s appearance at trial or protect the community or victim.
Right to Bond-Review Hearing Within 7 Days
If, however, the judges do order further detention, they must be able to show clear and convincing evidence it is necessary — and in that case, the defendant will have a right to a bond-review hearing within seven days. Both this seven-day window and the 48-hour window exclude weekends and holidays.
Jackson County Presiding Judge David M. Byrn suggested that the new rules were prompted by a nationwide movement against the practice of holding defendants before trial only because they cannot afford to post a bond.
Under the new bond rules, a defendants ability to pay, his or her family situation, and the danger posed to the public by release are now crucial points for judges to consider.
These new rules also apply to probation violations. Under the old rules, these arrestees needed to have a hearing within 96-hours of re-arrest; that window has expanded to seven days, excluding holidays and weekends.
When Does the Clock Start Ticking?
The initial bond appearance must be held within 48-hours after the defendant is “confined under the warrant in the county that issued the warrant.” Because many counties do not have their own jails and send their pretrial defendants to neighboring counties, the clock starts running when they are confined “in a county with which the issuing county has a contractual agreement to hold the defendant.” Additionally, the initial appearances can occur via interactive video technology.
New Rules Apply Retroactive to “Backlog” County Jail Population
On June 11, 2019, U.S. District Judge Audrey G. Fleissig issued a preliminary injunction to several inmates in the city jail for an inability to afford bail in a class-action lawsuit against the St. Louis Circuit Court. Judge Fleissig cited evidence in a random sample of 222 cases in St. Louis Circuit Court, the duty judge set a bond 98 percent of the time, without any information about the defendant’s ability to pay.
In her opinion, Fleissig wrote: “These practices do no comport with applicable Supreme Court and Circuit precedent.” Moving forward, Judge Fleissig mandated that the court not only conduct initial appearance in compliance with the new bond rules–which would be required anyway–but also that the court hold bond-review hearings within seven-days for all defendants currently in jail who had been detained for longer than 48-hours. Click here to read Judge Fleissig’s opinion.
Avoiding Clogging the Courtrooms
Some critics have voiced concerns that these new bond rules will clog the courtrooms. However, some jurisdictions have already prepared for implementing the new rules. In the city of St. Louis, Presiding Judge Rex Burlison said that his court is setting up a standalone courtroom outfitted with a closed-circuit video system between it and the county jail to hold the mandated initial appearances within 48-hours. Judge Burlison said that this change will prevent the bond hearings from clogging up the courtrooms.
We will certainly be monitoring how courts in Southwest Missouri implement the new bond rules and the consideration judges give to non-monetary conditions of release. If you or someone you love gets detained on criminal charges, it is critical that you hire an attorney familiar with these new rules and as soon as possible after arrest to be represented by an attorney at the new mandatory bond hearings.