In Florida felony cases, the person charged can request permission to be released on bond (also referred to as “bail” in other states). In exchange for posting a certain amount of money, the defendant is released from jail – with certain restrictions – pending trial, and gets the bond money back so long as he or she later shows up in court. The right to bond does not extend, however, to persons charged with capital offenses and those carrying a possible life sentence.
In Treacy v. Lamberti, Florida’s Supreme Court explains that a juvenile who was charged with attempted murder is entitled to be released on bond while awaiting trial because it was not possible that he would be sentenced to life in prison without the opportunity for parole.
Treacy was 15 years old when he was charged as a juvenile with attempted first degree murder with a deadly weapon. He was later convicted and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, followed by 10 years of probation.
While awaiting trial, a judge denied Treacy’s motion to have bond set. Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeals agreed with the “no bond” ruling on appeal. Although case law makes clear that a juvenile cannot be sentenced to life in prison without the opportunity for parole, the appeals court said its focus in determining whether bond was available was on the classification of the offense, not the defendant’s likely sentence.
The Florida Supreme Court reversed the decision on appeal, however. “Because Treacy, and juveniles like him, cannot receive a life sentence, we hold that the plain language of the Florida Constitution provides that they are ‘entitled to pretrial release on reasonable conditions that reasonably protect the community from risk of physical harm,’” the court explained, quoting Article I, Section 14 of the state Constitution. The provision states that a person charged with a crime in Florida is entitled to pre-trial release, except when charged “with a capital offense or an offense punishable by life imprisonment.”
In Graham v. Florida, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the United States Constitution prohibits sentencing a juvenile who has not committed a homicide to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. As a result, the court explained that Treacy could not have been sentenced to life without parole in this case. Without a possible life sentence, the Florida Constitution clearly entitled Treacy to be able to post bond, according to the court.
“We therefore hold that Treacy is correct that the unavailability of a life sentence in his case prohibits the classification of his offense as one punishable by life imprisonment, and quash the decision entered by the Fourth District below,” the court ruled.
If you or a loved one is under the age of 18 and has been charged with a crime in Florida, contact the South Florida juvenile criminal defense attorneys at Anidjar & Levine. We represent clients of all ages throughout the region, including in Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton and Hialeah. Call us at 800-747-3733 or fill out and submit our online “Contact Us” form to schedule a free initial consultation.
Related blog posts: