What Happens When a Judge Sets a Bond that is the Equivalent of No Bond?

          It is an all-too-frequent occurrence in Florida's criminal courts that a judge will set a bond in a given case, yet the accused individual continues to remain in jail because he cannot afford to pay that bond.  That is precisely what happened in the case of Stallings v. Ryan which arose in Miami.

 

          David Stallings actually had two different cases.  In the first case, he was charged with 22 counts of sexual battery on a victim under the age of 12 and 21 counts of sexual battery/engaging in a sex act with a family child under the age of one.  In the second case, he was charged with 30 counts of sexual battery on a victim under the age of 12 and 29 counts of sexual battery/engaging in a sex act with a family child under the age of one.

 

          Because Stallings was being held in jail without any bond at all, he asked the trial judge to set a reasonable bond.  The judge held a hearing but ordered that Stallings continue to be held without any bond.  Stallings appealed that ruling to Florida's Third District Court of Appeal which, in turn, ordered the trial judge to set a reasonable bond.  In response, the trial judge set a monetary bond for both cases totaling $910,000.

 

          Stallings then filed a second petition for writ of habeas corpus in which he argued that such a high bond was unreasonable and excessive in light of the appellate court's prior ruling.  The Third District Court of Appeal once again agreed with Stallings and this time ordered that the trial judge set a reasonable bond of no more than $100,000.  In so doing, the Third District Court stated that "the law is well-settled that excessive bond, depending on the financial resources of the defendant, is tantamount to no bond at all.  Based on [Stallings's] financial resources, the bond set was clearly excessive and tantamount to no bond.  Furthermore, in light of [Stallings's] proven strong ties to the community, compliance with prior court orders, and ownership of residential property, which can be used as collateral for a reasonable bond, the present bond amount [of $910,000] is unwarranted."

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