The U.S. Constitution prohibits courts from imposing “excessive bail” in criminal cases. Among other things, this means that courts should not imprison a person accused of a crime pending trial, unless the charges against them are severe (e.g., murder) or there is credible evidence that the defendant poses a danger to the community if allowed to remain free. But even where such a risk of danger may exist, a defendant should still receive bail if the court can fashion sufficient “release conditions” to minimize any potential risk.
Defendant’s Alleged Role in Facilitating Overdose Not Grounds for Revoking Bail
In a recent decision from Sherman, Texas, United States v. Perras, a federal judge denied the government’s efforts to revoke bail for a man facing drug charges. A grand jury previously indicted the defendant in this case with “possession with intent to distribute” controlled substances. According to the indictment, a man died as the result of overdosing on Alprazolam and Fentanyl. The defendant allegedly sent several text messages that helped connect the victim with the dealer who supplied the drugs. The indictment did not, however, accuse the defendant of selling any drugs himself.
A federal magistrate judge granted the defendant bail pending trial after imposing several conditions, such as electronic monitoring of his location and “mandatory mental health and drug testing and treatment.” The United States Attorney’s office objected to even this conditional bail and appealed to a district judge, seeking revocation of the bail order. The prosecutors maintained that even with these conditions, the defendant was a “danger” to the community.
The district judge disagreed and upheld the magistrate’s order. The judge explained the government “failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that no combination of release conditions can reasonably assure the safety of others and the community during [the defendant’s] release pending trial.” While the indictment provided “probable cause” to suspect the defendant committed the crimes he is charged with, he was still entitled to bail as he presented sufficient “rebutting evidence” that he did not pose a danger to the community.
Specifically, the judge cited testimony from the defendant’s girlfriend and father, as well as letters from nearly two dozen others, demonstrating the defendant held a full-time job and had strong ties to the community. And while the charges against the defendant were “serious,” the judge said they needed to be read in context. The defendant’s alleged role in the victim’s overdose death was “limited,” and there was no evidence he ever sold drugs or belonged to a drug organization. At worse, the defendant was himself an “occasional drug user,” which the judge said was not enough to justify revoking bail.
Speak with a Houston Drug Crimes Defense Attorney Today
Even if a defendant is ultimately acquitted, the denial of bail pending trial can have a significant negative impact on their life moving forward. That is why it is essential to work with an experienced Houston criminal defense lawyer who will fight to make sure the courts treat you fairly when it comes to making decisions regarding bail and other pre-trial matters. If you are facing drug charges and need assistance, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today. Call (281) 280-0100.