This victory supports bail challenges to unlawful bail practices statewide

TALLAHASSEE, FL — Last week, the First District Court of Appeal granted two petitions by individuals represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida who challenged their pretrial detention in the Leon County Jail.

Both were arrested and charged with criminal offenses and given a monetary bail they could not afford. As a result, they remained detained without further inquiry whether nonmonetary conditions in conjunction with an affordable bail amount would also reasonably assure the state’s pretrial interests. Although common, this practice both violates Florida law and costs taxpayers approximately $100 a day per person to house someone in a county jail when that person cannot afford to pay their bail.  

“We are pleased that the First District Court of Appeal reaffirmed that individuals who have not been convicted of a crime should not have to wait in jail for their day in court except in limited circumstances as required by Florida law,” said Benjamin Stevenson, senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Florida. “Study after study show how nonmonetary conditions work just as well and should be used to facilitate release instead of an unaffordable monetary condition that ensures detention. Detaining a person on an unaffordable bail without a detention order that complies with the substantive and procedural requirements for detention is unlawful.”

In its orders, the First District ordered the trial courts to release the ACLU of Florida’s clients unless the trial courts found that pretrial detention was necessary pursuant to Florida law. After the First District issued its orders, the trial courts held hearings on Monday and Tuesday of this week and found that pretrial detention was not necessary for either client. Both individuals were released from Leon County Jail on Tuesday. 

“The First District’s orders are a victory for our clients and the rule of law in Florida. The court is ensuring that when the State wants to deprive Floridians of their freedom, it must follow the process required by law,” said Jerry Edwards, staff attorney with the ACLU of Florida. “No one should spend a single extra day in jail when a judge has determined they are entitled to pretrial release. It unnecessarily wastes taxpayers’ money, and it costs people their livelihoods.” 

The ACLU of Florida has also successfully challenged bail amounts which resulted in additional clients’ unlawful pretrial detention in other Florida courts, including numerous successful challenges in the Second District Court of Appeal. These successful bail challenges were made on behalf of clients in Manatee, Pinellas, and Escambia counties. 

“Pretrial freedom is an essential element to our understanding of liberty and freedom in this country and in Florida,” said Jacqueline Azis, staff attorney with the ACLU of Florida. “Instead of punishing people pretrial who are no risk to our community or a flight risk, bail amounts should be set at an amount people can afford. Pretrial release is the default, not the exception only reserved for the wealthy.”

A link to the First District Court of Appeal orders can be found here