Key Factors In Courts Determining Bond and Release Conditions In AZ.
Bail is a matter of Right in Arizona, except for certain offense such as Murder, Sexual Assault and certain Dangerous Crimes Against Children. Arizona Constitution, Article 2, Section 22.
A Defendant must be release on their own Recognizance unless a Judge determines that release conditions are necessary to ensure the Defendant's appearance at all future hearings. Rule 7.2 of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure.
Factors The Court Must Consider In Setting Release Conditions or Reviewing Bond.
In determining release conditions a judge must take into account the factors listed under A.R.S. 13-3967.
These factors are considered at the time of the initial appearance or at any subsequent hearing to review release conditions.
(See Related: Video “When Is Bail Set In An Arizona Criminal Case?” )
These factors include the following:
- The views of the victim.
- The nature and circumstances of the offense charged.
- Whether the accused has a prior arrest or conviction for a serious offense or violent or aggravated felony as defined in section 13-706 or an offense in another state that would be a serious offense or violent or aggravated felony as defined in section 13-706 if committed in this state.
- Evidence that the accused poses a danger to others in the community.
- The results of a risk or lethality assessment in a domestic violence charge that is presented to the court.
- The weight of evidence against the accused.
- The accused's family ties, employment, financial resources, character and mental condition.
- The results of any drug test submitted to the court.
- Whether the accused is using any substance if its possession or use is illegal pursuant to chapter 34 of this title.
- Whether the accused violated section 13-3407, subsection A, paragraph 2, 3, 4 or 7 involving methamphetamine or section 13-3407.01.
- The length of residence in the community.
- The accused's record of arrests and convictions.
- The accused's record of appearance at court proceedings or of flight to avoid prosecution or failure to appear at court proceedings.
- Whether the accused has entered or remained in the United States illegally.
- Whether the accused's residence is in this state, in another state or outside the United States.
Purpose of Release Conditions
The purpose of release conditions and holding someone on a bond is to guarantee the defendant's appearance at all future court appearances. Every defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty, but a court may still impose a bond if it believes it is necessary to guarantee the defendant's appearance for court or trial.
Let's take a closer look at some of the most important factors.
(See Related: Video “What is a Motion to Review Release Conditions?” )
Ties to the Community
Ties to the community is one of the most important factors that a judge considers when imposing bond and release conditions. Ties to the community can include employment, family, whether someone leases or owns property, how long someone has resided in Arizona. These factors can all impact a judge's decision on what amount of bond to impose in a case.
Even if a defendant does not reside in Arizona, a judge can consider their ties to their own local community in making a determination that someone is not a flight risk.
Probably the second most important factor for a court to consider in setting bond and release conditions is the criminal record of a defendant.
A defendant's criminal record may be entirely relevant as to whether a high bond is necessary. If the Defendant has prior felony convictions it could mean an enhanced or increased prison sentence. A higher potential prison sentence might be a factor that someone is a flight risk.
A prior criminal record for an offense that would suggest the defendant is a flight risk may also require a higher bond. Prior criminal records for Failure to Appear, Unlawful Flight, Escape, Interference with Judicial Proceedings are the types of prior convictions that a judge might consider someone to be a flight risk.
History of Failure to Appear.
Before a defendant sees a judge at their initial appearance, they will be asked to fill out a questionnaire for the court to list answers to questions about all the different bond factors the judge needs to consider. One of the questions will ask the defendant if they have any past failures to appear.
It is generally best to answer these questions truthfully and have an explanation if there are any past failures to appear. Local judges have access to court records for all defendants in Arizona. If a defendant has a past failure to appear for not coming to court, it will definitely stand out as a red flag as to why the court may set a bond in a criminal case.
Weight of the Evidence Or Circumstances of the Case.
Besides ties to the community the nature of the crime, weight of the evidence and circumstances of the case is probably what the judge will consider as the most important factors in setting release conditions.
Serious crimes usually have higher prison sentences. Higher prison sentences usually means an increased likelihood that a defendant might be a flight risk.
The judge can also consider the weight of the evidence in determining release conditions. If the evidence is particularly strong against a defendant, the likelihood of a conviction increases. Logically if it is more likely that a conviction will result, the more likely a defendant may be a flight risk.
The judge has to consider the entire circumstances of the case in basing their decision. For example, the evidence could be strong in a particular case, but it may also be the type of offense that probation is a typical outcome so the defendant does not pose a flight risk. A case could be serious offense, but the weight of the evidence might be entirely circumstantial and a defendant has all the incentive to appear at future court hearings to fight the charges.
Hire An Attorney If Release Conditions Are An Issue.
It is always best to hire an attorney before a judge must consider setting release conditions in a case at an initial appearance, or for any subsequent motion to review release conditions.
An experienced criminal attorney can identify issues in a case or in a defendant's criminal history that might be a concern for the court, and can effectively address those issues when arguing before a judge on why a defendant should be released on their own recognizance or why bond should be reduced.