Wednesday, August 08, 2001

Risk, crime record help determine bond

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Establishing a bond amount to ensure a defendant's appearance at trial is a complicated process that goes well beyond the whims of a single judge.

        In Hamilton County, judges consider many factors before setting bond.

        They review recommendations from police and prosecutors. They also study a defendant's prior criminal record and gauge whether he'll cause harm to others or himself if released.

        The court's Pre-trial Services Division interviews a suspect's family or boss to determine if the defendant has commitments, such as a job or relationships, that might reduce the possibility of flight.

        The department assigns a number to its findings that is given to the judge.

        If the number is high, the recommendation is for a low bond. If the number is low or drops below zero, that indicates recommendation for a high bond.

        “Judges don't guess at what they do,” said Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Guy Guckenberger.

        “Most of the process is not subjective, but the (final decision on bond) can be different from judge to judge.”

        After reviewing the results, the judge weighs an opinion of the defendant and arrives at a bond amount.

        Tony R. Lee, one of those most wanted by a Cincinnati Police task force, holds the high-bond record — two $250,000 cash bonds — in connection with drug-related charges. The 24-year-old man has been convicted of carrying a concealed weapon and selling marijuana.

        He also has a conviction for escaping from police custody.

        “If there was ever a question (about a bond amount), I always thought about protecting the victim,” said Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen, who was a Municipal Court judge from 1993 to 1996.

        Judges set bonds in both Municipal and Common Pleas courts.

        Anyone arrested appears for arraignment before a Municipal Court judge, where the first level of bond is set.

        If the defendant is indicted by a grand jury, the case heads to Common Pleas Court, where felonies are tried. Common Pleas judges can either continue the Municipal Court bond or change it.

        Judges also have to consider the kind of bond they'll impose.

        There is a cash bond, requiring the entire amount be paid for release. And there is a 10 percent bond, in which only 10 percent of the total is required.

        Property or credit cards can also be used to post bond, if a judge allows it.


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