Under the Florida Constitution, somebody arrested for a crime has the right to pretrial release on reasonable conditions like a bond, subject to specific exceptions under Article I, section 14. There is an exception that may apply if you’re charged with a capital or life offense, ones that can be punished by life imprisonment or capital punishment, and the prosecutor is able to show that the proof of guilt is evident or that the presumption is great. If you’re held under this exception, you are supposed to receive an adversarial, evidentiary bond hearing known as an Arthur hearing that looks at the prosecutor’s proof to decide whether it rises to that level of proof, which is a standard stronger than the beyond a reasonable doubt standard. If you have been arrested for a crime, having a knowledgeable Miami criminal defense attorney review your case is crucial. In a recent Florida appellate case related to rights under Article I, section 14, the defendant, confined in Miami-Dade County jail, petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus.
The defendant was arrested for armed robbery with a firearm, and the next day, made a first appearance by video from jail. The arresting officer had set forth in the arrest affidavit that the victim of the armed robbery was an overnight security guard. The defendant had come up while she was sitting in a golf cart and put a gun to her head. The victim complied, and at that point, the defendant asked the victim if she was armed, and she said no. He took her bus pass and purse and fled.
When this armed robbery was investigated, his identity was determined from a photographic array, and he was apprehended. No bond was announced at the first appearance, which took two minutes. This meant that bond would be determined at a full Arthur hearing, in accord with standard practice. The defendant was arraigned and charged with armed robbery, a first-degree felony which is punishable with life in prison. He pled not guilty and asked for an Arthur hearing, and he objected to his detention beyond the first appearance without the court initially finding proof evident, presumption great. His objection was overruled.
At the Arthur hearing, the investigating detective testified, authenticating the victim’s written statement and surveillance footage. He also explained that the defendant had confessed to the robbery, but denied using a firearm. At the conclusion of the Arthur hearing, the judge decided the prosecutor’s evidence that the defendant had robbed the victim met the standard of proof evident, presumption great. However, it found that the evidence showing he used a firearm didn’t meet that standard. Unarmed robbery is not a capital or life offense, and so the lower court ordered the defendant to be released pretrial with a $25,000 bond on house arrest.
The defendant’s habeas petition asked whether Article I, section 14 of the Florida Constitution prohibited the lower court from detaining the defendant beyond the first appearance for a reasonable time, pending an Arthur bond hearing, without first making a finding of proof evident, presumption great.
In this case, the prosecutor and defendant agreed it was impractical and not constitutionally mandated to hold a full Arthur bond hearing at the first appearance. In Miami, the first appearance happens within 24 hours of the defendant being arrested. At the first appearance, the judge found there was probable cause the defendant perpetrated a crime that fell into the exception of a crime that could be punished with life imprisonment or capital punishment. Even so, it didn’t make the initial finding of proof evident, presumption great.
The defendant argued that since there was no initial finding, section 14 didn’t allow him to be detained past the first appearance even for a reasonable time to hold an Arthur bond hearing. He conceded that the prosecutor might not be able to meet the high standard of proof evident, presumption great at first appearances in many cases.
The appellate court disagreed with the defendant. It explained that it wasn’t constitutionally mandated or practical to hold a preliminary Arthur hearing for the same reason it wasn’t possible to hold a full Arthur hearing. Section 14 didn’t stop a trial judge at the first appearance to defer ruling on a bond where it found probable cause the defendant perpetrated a capital offense or one punishable with life in prison. The court could detain a defendant for a reasonable time needed to conduct the Arthur bond hearing. No preliminary finding of proof evident, presumption great was required to decide whether to hold the defendant for an Arthur bond hearing.
You should take armed robbery charges seriously. If you’re charged with a crime and facing a first appearance or magistrate hearing, you should retain an experienced Miami criminal defense attorney. Call The Hoffman Firm at (305) 928-1669, or contact us via our online form.