Cash Bond During COVID-19: A Violation of One’s Constitutional Rights?

Bond reform is an issue that was at the center of controversy before COVID-19. With the coronavirus causing deaths and stealing headlines, the effect of protecting the community with bond has become a significant issue of division between prosecutors and defense lawyers across the United States. In the state of Michigan, we are known to have higher bonds than most of our sister states. This leads to a debate of whether COVID-19 plays a role in the issuance of a bond or should the defendant be forced to swipe their credit card to stay out of jail pending their criminal case. More importantly, what happens if the defendant cannot afford to pay for their bond. To review this issue, we spoke to several criminal defense lawyers and a prosecutor to gain their insight.

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates, which is known as the top criminal defense firm across the state of Michigan. When asked about the issue of bond during COVID-19, Grabel said, “District Court judges and Magistrates need to understand what we are dealing with. If the defendant turned themselves in and has retained counsel, that should be enough to show that the defendant is cooperating and should be given a Personal Recognizance Bond. These are tough times, and placing somebody in jail with the presumption of innocence is dangerous to society.”

A prosecutor in Michigan that would not give her name added her point of view when she said, “Our job is to protect the community. The reason for a bond is to make sure that somebody cannot flee the state. I must protect society, and that is what I plan to do.”

William Amadeo is a partner at McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates. Amadeo is known as one of the top criminal defense lawyers across the state of Michigan and provided his take on the issue. “The prosecutor, whose name we will not mention, has a tough job. I get that but give me a break. Are we going to send somebody to jail and a potential death sentence because they cannot post bond? I have an issue with the bond in general, but I try to see both sides of the argument. During COVID, a non-PR Bond is a violation of the defendant’s 8th Amendment rights.”

Lane Zabawa is known as one of the top criminal defense lawyers in Kent County, Michigan, and is also known as a top-flight estate planner. When asked about bond during COVID-19, Zabawa said, “Working with the elderly in estate planning and the criminal defense field, I have firsthand knowledge that it is often the elderly paying the bond for a loved one. If we have a presumption of innocence, we should not task a defendant with a bond during COVID-19.”

Matthew McManus is a partner at McManus and Amadeo and known as one of the top research attorneys in both the state of Michigan and the federal court system. McManus, a native of New York, added his thoughts when he said, “In New York and New Jersey, not only are courts giving PR Bonds but jails are regularly releasing non-violent offenders. We need uniformity in our court system to address this issue. The presumption of innocence needs to play a role in how litigators can do their job.”

While the issue of bond is always a debate amongst prosecutors and defense lawyers, the fear of COVID-19 being spread to our jail system has added another layer to this issue. Is protecting the community placing someone inside of jail when they have a presumption of innocence if they could spread COVID-19?

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