According to an article in the MetroWest Daily News, a Framingham District Court judge ordered a Rhode Island man held without bail in relation to several sexual assault charges. The article states that the man is accused of sexually assaulting and raping the alleged victim over a period of years, beginning when she was thirteen years old. The alleged assaults reportedly began in the early 2000s and ended several years later. Despite the seriousness of the claims, the alleged victim failed to report any of the alleged conduct to the police for years, coming forward only fifteen months ago, in April of 2014. After the report was lodged, the Commonwealth began an investigation but did not arrest the defendant until last week. At the arraignment, the Commonwealth moved to hold the defendant without bail under G. L. c. 276, § 58A.
This statute allows the Commonwealth to move for a “dangerousness hearing” where a defendant is charged with a felony that involves the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force as an element of the offense. During the hearing, the court must make a determination as to whether the defendant is in fact “dangerous” under the statute – i.e., that no conditions of release will reasonably assure the safety of any other person or the community. In the event that the defendant is found to be dangerous, the court may elect to release him with certain conditions. Alternatively, the court may determine that even the imposition of conditions would be insufficient to ensure the safety of another person or the community, and therefore order the defendant to be held without bail for up to 120 days.
In making a determination as to whether a defendant should be released on conditions versus held without bail, the court takes the following factors into consideration: (1) the nature and seriousness of the danger posed to any person or the community that would result by the person’s release; (2) the nature and circumstances of the offense charged; (3) the potential penalty the person faces; (4) the person’s family ties; (5) the person’s employment record; (6) the person’s history of mental illness; (7) the person’s reputation; (8) the risk that the person will obstruct or attempt to obstruct justice or threaten, injure or intimidate or attempt to threaten, injure or intimidate a prospective witness or juror; (9) the person’s record of convictions, if any; (10) any illegal drug distribution or present drug dependency; (11) whether the person is on bail pending adjudication of a prior charge; (12) whether the acts alleged involve G. L. c. 209A related issues; and/or (13) whether the person is on probation, parole or other release pending completion of sentence for any conviction and whether he is on release pending sentence or appeal for any conviction.
Although the statute explicitly states that, following a finding of dangerousness, the court may hold a person without bail for up to 120 days, courts almost always impose the maximum detention period available. Here, however, the court chose to detain the defendant for only 45 days. Specifically, the judge questioned the strength of the Commonwealth’s case, asking the Commonwealth why the court should agree to hold the defendant for 120 days when the Commonwealth had failed to arrest and charge the defendant for 15 months. Despite the fact that the court declined to detain the defendant for the maximum period possible, he will still be held without bail for the 45 days. Such a detention will undoubtedly disrupt his life, potentially result in the loss of employment and/or housing, and cause financial hardship. Such a result seems particularly unjust where it is entirely unclear as to whether the Commonwealth will even be able to make a case against the defendant.
In light of the significant consequences of being held without bail, it is of the utmost importance that a person charged in a criminal case have an experienced attorney who will do everything possible to obtain the person’s prompt release. If you or a loved one is charged with a criminal offense and is facing a dangerousness hearing, or is being held on a bail that is simply too high to be posted, you will need a skilled attorney to put you in the best possible position to be released while the criminal charges are pending. Attorney Daniel Cappetta recognizes the importance of all of his clients’ liberty interests and does everything in his power to ensure that that his clients are not held. Call him today for a free consultation.