Crime and Over-Punishment? Woman’s Bail Doubled, Sentenced to 30 Days for Flipping-Off Judge

A Miami woman arrested for illegal possession of Xanax was sentenced to 30 days in jail and had her bail amount doubled, but it had nothing to do with her drug charge.  After her bond was set at $5,000, the young lady told the Judge “adios” as she walked out. The judge called her back and reset her bail at $10,000. Surprised at the increase, the Defendant walked away for the second time, she flipped her middle finger to the judge and said, “F – you.” Hearing this, the judge summoned her back a third time. She was charged with criminal contempt of court, and given a 30-day sentence.

Although it is common for judges to change or revoke bail, there is a question whether the increase of the Defendant’s bail amount was an abuse of discretion. The purpose of bail is to guarantee that a defendant will appear for all scheduled court dates, but is not to be used as a punishment to prevent release. The Eighth Amendment provides that “excessive bail shall not be required.” In Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, 372 U.S. 144 (1963), the U.S. Supreme Court set out factors to determine when a government act is punitive or regulatory, such as whether the act is “retribution”. Furthermore, the Court held in U.S. v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739 (1987) that the government’s conditions of release or detention “not be ‘excessive’ in light of the perceived evil” or danger to the community posed by a defendant.

In this matter, whether the court’s pretrial release powers were being used for punitive purposes is now a non-issue. On Feb. 8, the accused apologized to the court, the judge and her family. She told the judge that her behavior was irrational and that she had taken Xanax prior to her initial court appearance. The Judge vacated the 30-day sentence and the accused has agreed to attend a drug rehabilitation program.

 By Winston Taitt, trial attorney practicing civil litigation and criminal defense, and Isabel Arias, practicing insurance litigation for plaintiffs.


Picture retrieved from the TT- Tenis Warehouse


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