Bail Reform? It Works.

“In the short time since the implementation of Kentucky’s bail reform, “[a]bout 70 percent of defendants are now avoiding pretrial incarceration; more than 90 percent of them show up for court appearances and avoid getting arrested in the interim. In other words, it is working.”

(Arizona is also making meaningful progress in bail reform efforts. The Arizona Supreme Court, in amending the Rule of Criminal Procedure, has narrowed and reduced those factors that may justify pretrial incarceration. Follow the link to read my blog post on Arizona’s Bail Reform:



Former Maricopa County Sheriff Found Guilty

The infamous "Sheriff Joe" Arpaio, who was voted out of office this past year after 24 years as Maricopa County Sheriff, was found guilty of criminal contempt on Monday by Federal District Judge Susan Bolton for willfully violating an order of Federal District Judge Murray Snow.

"Not only did Defendant abdicate responsibility, he announced to the world and to his subordinates that he was going to continue business as usual no matter who said otherwise." The order prohibited Arpaio from "detaining persons for further investigation without reasonable suspicion that a crime has been or is being committed." Bolton found that Arpaio knew of the order and willfully violated the order by "failing to do anything to ensure his subordinates’ compliance and by directing them to continue to detain persons for whom no criminal charges could be filed."

Arpaio faces up to six months in jail for the crime. At sentencing, Judge Bolton may consider Arpaio's entire career in law enforcement, including his 24 years as sheriff of Maricopa County. Sentencing is currently set for October 5th.

Background: In 2009, the Department of Justice (DOJ) opened an investigation into the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO). After filing suit to obtain documents MCSO refused to provide, the DOJ issued its findings: "MCSO engaged in a policy of stopping, detaining, and investigating persons of Hispanic ancestry based on their race, in traffic and during worksite raids; failed to provide language access assistance to Hispanic jail inmates with Limited English Proficiency (LEP); and unlawfully retaliated against individuals who complained about or criticized MCSO’s practices."

The criminal contempt charges arises from a refusal to follow of a 2011 order from Judge Snow in a class action lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Arizona (the DOJ was later permitted to join as a plaintiff and worked with the ACLU). The plaintiffs alleged that MCSO engaged in unconstitutional racial profiling and made illegal traffic stops targeting Latinos. Judge Snow's order required MCSO to undergo reforms to prevent further discriminatory law enforcement practices and appointed an independent monitor to oversee implementation of the injunction. It also barred Arpaio and his deputies from detaining individuals on mere suspicion of their immigration status without evidence they had broken state law.


New Phoenix Police Immigration Procedures Adopted

The Phoenix Police Department recently revised its procedures related to immigration, including restrictions on when Phoenix officers may ask about immigration status and contact ICE. The changes prohibit officers from:

  • Asking about immigration status or contacting ICE while on school grounds
  • Asking individuals during consensual encounters about their immigration status
  • Asking victims or witnesses of crimes about their immigration status
  • Asking passengers to provide ID in order to verify immigration status
  • Extending a traffic stop to verify immigration status beyond the time necessary to resolve the original purpose of the stop (such as issuing a speeding ticket)

Jeri Williams, the Phoenix Police Chief issued this statement together with the new policy:

"The Phoenix Police Department respects the dignity of all persons and recognizes the sanctity of human life, rights and liberty. We are committed to protecting and serving every member of our diverse community and ensuring that crime victims and witnesses feel comfortable and confident when reporting crimes to our officers. As your chief, I commit to you that racial profiling will not be tolerated.  We will continue to ensure everyone's safety by continuing our crime suppression efforts and focusing on crimes that most affect our local community. As always, we will be guided by state law which dictates our responsibilities when dealing with arrested people."

New Phoenix Police Procedures on Immigration

Redlined version of the proposed changes to Phoenix Police Procedures on Immigration (Note: this version was not adopted in full, but it is useful in seeing what portions of the former procedures were changed or stricken entirely)




Bond Reform in Arizona: A Step in the Right Direction

Did you know? In the U.S., the pre-trial population (citizens who are presumed to be innocent by law) makes up 99 percent of the jail population growth over the past 15 years.

Last year, Arizona Chief Justice Bales commissioned a task force called the Task Force for Fair Justice for All to study and investigate, amongst other related issues, the effects of pretrial incarceration. The Task Force's report concluded that pretrial incarceration is correlated with a higher likelihood to reoffend due to its negative effects, like loss of a job and eviction. The Task Force recommended that "pre-trial detention should be avoided to the extent possible.”

As a result, Arizona implemented new rules in April reflecting the nationwide trend towards bond (bail) reform. The Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure now include this language: "All persons charged with a crime but not yet convicted are presumed to be innocent." 

The new rules are designed to encourage judges to consider the potential negative effects to the individual, their families, and the community before setting bond or other release conditions pending trial.

There's still a long way to go, especially in addressing in-custody treatment for the mentally ill and those who are addicted to substances, but it's a step in the right direction that I hope continues.

Can words alone kill?

A Massachusetts judge thinks so. Last week. Judge Lawrence Moniz convicted Michelle Carter of manslaughter for encouraging her boyfriend to kill himself over the phone. 

Matthew Segal of the Massachusset ACLU stated of the conviction: “This conviction exceeds the limits of our criminal laws and violates free speech protections guaranteed by the Massachusetts and US Constitutions.” If upheld on appeal, the verdict could chill “important and worthwhile end-of-life discussions between loved [ones] across the Commonwealth.” 

Read about the case and the reaction from legal scholars about the constitutional issues the verdict presents.