Sunday, January 4, 2015

Massachusetts Judge accepts Nike Sneakers in lieu of Bail, but WTF was the Defendant in custody for in the first place? ~ Call Michael A. Haber, Esq. @ **ARRESTED or **MIAMIDUI

At a Bond Hearing on Friday, January 2nd, 2014 in the Framingham, Massachusetts District Court, Judge Douglass Stoddart agreed to accept the Nike sneakers off of a man's feet in lieu of bond.  

Please understand that I am NOT a Massachusetts lawyer and am therefore not competent to comment on matters of Massachusetts law or procedure, but, as a practicing and veteran criminal defense attorney of 23+ years (in Florida and in various United States District Courts) I can comment on the nature of bond and can offer my opinion on this news story.

I read several articles and they all seem to indicate that a one Jason Duval, 39 y/o, was arrested on Thursday, January 1st, 2015, booked and taken before the Framingham District Court because "he had outstanding court costs [in the amount of $450.00] from a 2012 drug case".  The article (which is suspicious at best) indicates that Judge Stoddart inquired as to Mr. Duval's finances and the Mr. Duval pled poverty, claiming that he was going through a divorce and had no money.  It is alleged that the Court advised Mr. Duval that he could either "get creative" or that he would be detained in jail, apparently pending payment, and that is when Mr. Duval offered up his shoes as collateral.  

It is alleged that Mr. Duval was given the choice of either spending "a few days" in jail to satisfy his debt to the Court or posting his "bond", agreeing to and then successfully completing a payment plan. Mr. Duval was released, with his Nike's held as collateral, in exchange for his promise to pay $100.00 per week in four (4) weekly installments commencing on January 13th, 2015.  Apparently Mr. Duval can recoup his collateral by completing ten (10)  hours of community service.

Okay, while I applaud creative Judgeship I am going out on a limb here and calling "BS" on this.

There is no such thing as a debtor's prison in either Florida or in the United States, which, by my last count, included Massachusetts.  Court costs are a debt.  If you don't pay them you go to collections, not to jail, and if you go to jail then the system has railroaded you sic ways from Sunday,

Even if your debt is a condition of probation (which court costs are most assuredly NOT - not in Florida anyhow) in order to incarcerate you for failure to pay the court must first hold a hearing and afford you due process, including a right to present evidence that your failure to make your Court Ordered payments was not willful - that is to say that you could not (not that you chose not to) make the payments. If you truly could not then your violation should not be considered "willful", and without that necessary component you cannot be violated and incarcerated. Further, in this case (a probation violation) the Court has other alternatives to jailing you; namely it can choose to extend your probation (so as to afford you more time to pay) or it can convert your payments into what is referred to as a "criminal order" (a non-dischargeable debt which you can be held to pay even after your probation is terminated).  But what it cannot do is incarcerate you (this is pursuant to a little ditty known as the 8th Amendment).

Meantime, the question / issue that I have does not center around the Judge taking the Nikes (again, I applaud Judges who find creative ways to deal with situations, most especially when it inures to the benefit of the accused); rather, my problem is WTF is with Massachusetts law permitting an arrest, booking and detention of someone for failure to pay court costs?  First, it smacks the 8th in the face. Second what is the logic in throwing away good money for bad?  Does it make sense where someone owes money for the system to spend money, and further to expend resources (cops, jails, prosecutors, courts, etc.), when it can (and should) simply farm the matter out to collections?  Here in Florida if you don't pay then the Court can direct DMV to suspend your driver license, and that usually gets folks' attention.  But processing, serving, executing and finalizing a warrant?  C'mon... 

For more than 23 years Michael A. Haber, P.A. has been providing creative, effective and zealous advocacy and counsel in cases ranging from DUI to drug trafficking and from misdemeanors to first degree murder.  

At Michael A. Haber, P.A. "Its all about reasonable doubt"!

Michael A. Haber, Esq. is prepared to speak with you about your case!


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