The Pretrial Services Agency program advocates, in another contrived and twisted but failed attempt to mount a legitimate challenge against commercial bail bonding has resorted to claiming that requiring a secured bail bond is a violation of the age-old presumption of innocence doctrine.
They know that the doctrine is precious to the American criminal justice system, so we must not be surprised that they would try and identify it with their cause. Their problem is it just doesn't fit.
The fact that their program and the presumption of innocence cannot possibly connect means, necessarily, that they either do not understand the doctrine to start with or they do understand it and know that it does not apply to them. However, they are so desperate to come up with something to use in an attempt to legitimize their program that they decided to just run with it anyway. Probably in hope that nobody would miss the fact that their approach is fallacious.
Well, we didn't miss it. We know that the presumption of innocence has nothing, repeat NOTHING, to do with the Pretrial Service Agencies' programs. I will explain why...
All the presumption of innocence means is that the law does not require a person who has been accused of a crime to prove, or even to put on any evidence of, his innocence. Instead, the government has the complete burden to prove the person guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. And if it fails to do so, as far as the law is concerned, the person is innocent.
Aside from this, the presumption of innocence is largely symbolic. The reality is that no defendant would ever be put to trial, or even arrested in the first place, UNLESS the crime victim, the prosecutor, the arresting officer(s) and sometimes even a grand jury all believe the person is guilty.
So here's the deal: once the government has reason to believe the person has committed a crime, that person NEED NOT BE TREATED AS IF HE HAD NOT COMMITTED A CRIME, AND HE MAY BE JAILED.
To put it another way: the fact that we must consider the defendant innocent when he enters the courtroom does not mean that we must consider him innocent when he enters the jail, OR WHEN HIS BAIL BOND AND RELEASE CONDITIONS ARE SET.
Remember, the Eighth Amendment of The United States Constitution says: "There shall be no excessive bail." It does NOT say: "There shall be no bail set."
The setting of bail and insistence by the court that a defendant's release pending trial must be financially secured violates the presumption of innocence? Phooey!
One of my old law school professors told us about our opposition: "They will try to beat you with the facts. If they do not have the facts, they will try to beat you with the law. And if they do not have the facts or the law, they will try to confuse you."
Don't drink their presumption of innocence Kool-Aid stuff. They're just trying to confuse you.
Jerry Watson, Chief Legal Officer of AIA, blogging about the legislative side of the bail bond industry. AIA (Allegheny Casualty, International Fidelity and Associated Bond) is the largest and oldest bail bond insurance company in the nation.
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- Behind the Paper with Jerry Watson
- Jerry Watson serves as Chief Legal Officer to AIA, Senior Vice-President and Legal Counsel, Bail, at IFIC. He is the immediate past Chairman of the Private Enterprise Board of Directors of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – America’s largest bi-partisan state legislator member organization on whose board he has represented the commercial bail industry for the past 15 years. He has also served as General Counsel of the American Bail Coalition since its founding and is a member of the Bail Advisory Council of the Surety and Fidelity Association of America (SFAA). His undergraduate and law degrees are from Baylor University and he is a graduate of the National College of Criminal Defense Attorneys and Public Defenders. He has testified as an expert on bail in various state and federal cases, among them being the country’s largest bail related damage suits. In Jerry’s 42 years in the bail industry, always as an attorney, he has represented local retail agents, general agencies, insurance companies and insurance companies’ trade associations before state and federal courts and regulatory agencies.
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