How Attorney General Frosh Advocates Oppressing Defendants, Especially the Poor
At the beginning of the interview, attorney general Frosh made the case that defendants shouldn’t be locked up because they’re poor and that is “probably” unconstitutional. He proposes judges either let defendants go or release them using non-monetary bail. To put it in his words, non-monetary bail means “making them”
- take a drug test once a week, or
- report to a parole/probation officer every once in while, or
- wear a GPS device..1
Frosh’s non-monetary bail solutions translates to the defendant is placed under the supervision of pretrial services. As illustrated in this four-minute video, pretrial services is widely regarded as an agency which sets up defendants to fail. Even more importantly, it violates the principle of a defendant being innocent until proven guilty. Apparently, Frosh is not aware that probation and parole are forms of punishment AFTER someone is found guilty. He is advocating that once someone is arrested, the state should now treat them as if they’re found guilty without any admission or findings of guilt.
A scenario of this playing out is where a defendant is placed under pretrial services and has to jump through their hoops as if already found guilty. Then at trial, their case is dismissed or the defendant is found innocent.
So if they are declared innocent, why do they have to report to a “parole/probation” officer? I’ve had clients tell me they lost their job because of pretrial services. Also, at least in Virginia, when a GPS or alcohol monitor is used on defendants, the defendant has to pay for it.
Further, if the defendant doesn’t comply with pretrial services, that’s another charge and a warrant is issued for the defendant. This aspect of pretrial services is a primary reason it’s regarded as setting up the defendants to fail and perpetuates defendants’ entanglement in the criminal justice system. It disproportionately effects the poor and working-poor because they have the most difficulty making the appointments.
This also effects the outcome of the defendant’s original case, which is perhaps it’s most sinister aspect. When adjudicating cases, judges often look at the defendant’s past and current record. If the defendant is shown to not have cooperated with pretrial services, that is considered in the case. However, the defendant’s behavior with pretrial services is irrelevant to his or her innocence or guilt of the case. In this regard, the state has their boot on the necks of the defendants with these types of procedures, and Attorney General Frosh is not only compliant with it, but advocates these heavy-handed tactics.
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