GPS Monitoring Before Conviction

In St. Johns County, a person accused of a misdemeanor domestic violence or a related offense may be required to wear a GPS monitor upon their release from jail and before they are found guilty of any crime. Not only is that person’s every move tracked, but he or she will also have to pay for the cost of the GPS supervision.

Court Programs of North FL., LLC, provides GPS monitoring services for the county. Pretrial release orders may contain the following language:

[A]ny and all fees and costs due Court Programs of North FL., LLC, shall be paid directly to it on a timely basis by Defendant. Any non-payment by Defendant for services shall be considered a breach of Defendant’s release status. Defendant’s breach of his/her obligation to Court Programs of North FL., LLC, may result in the Defendant being held in Contempt of Court and may lead to re-arrest and surrender to the St. Johns County Jail.

This means that if they're not paid, the accused may go back to jail. Many persons accused of crimes cannot afford to pay for this fee and put in a difficult position, especially if they are struggling to find money for an attorney.

The condition obligating a person accused of a crime to pay for GPS monitoring as a condition of pretrial release raises some serious constitutional issues. Article I, Section 14 of the Florida Constitution presumes that every person charged with a non-Capital crime shall be entitled to pretrial release on reasonable conditions. This section balances the rights of an accused with the need to administer justice and concern for public safety.

To strike that balance, courts are permitted to impose “reasonable conditions” of pretrial release by which a defendant must abide. Florida Statute Section 903.046 specifies that the courts are tasked to “ensure the appearance of the criminal defendant at subsequent proceedings and to protect the community against unreasonable danger from the criminal defendant.” § 903.046(1), Fla. Stat. Thus, it is clear that courts are empowered to impose conditions that will motivate the accused to appear in court and protect the public from unreasonable danger.

However, the power is not unrestricted, and reasonableness limits judicial discretion. Florida Courts have found that a reasonable condition does not seek to punish an accused person. Courts must pay particular attention to conditions of release that are dependent upon money. In other words, judges must be sensitive to a criminal defendant’s ability to pay money to secure their freedom.

The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits excessive bail. Excessive bail is forbidden by a panoply of limitations upon state prosecutions imposed by the U.S. Constitution and the requirement that criminal defendants have a right to due process. The U.S. Supreme Court has defined “excessive bail” under the Eighth Amendment as “Bail set at a figure higher than an amount reasonably calculated to fulfill [its] purpose.” Stack v. Boyle, 342 U.S. 1, 5, 72 S. Ct. 1, 3 (1951)

It is well established that a person cannot be imprisoned solely because he or she is poor. Such a scheme would violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Florida courts have consistently disapproved of monetary conditions that prevent pretrial release based upon an inability to pay. An "excessive bond, depending on the financial resources of the defendant, is tantamount to no bond at all." Camara v. State, 916 So. 2d 946, 947 (Fla. 3d DCA 2005)

The condition requiring payment for electronic monitoring may be unreasonable and excessive because if a person cannot afford to pay for it. The only role money should play in pretrial release is to ensure that a defendant appears in court. The imposition of this condition for a class of crimes (domestic violence) poses another problem of constitutional proportions.

Electronic monitoring has been found to be “excessive” when it is mandated to a class of accused persons without considering the unique facts and circumstances of the individual case. For example, several Federal District courts have taken issue with the electronic monitoring mandates imposed by the Adam Walsh Act.

Every case is different, and GPS monitoring should be utilized after considering those differences. The attorneys at Taylor & Waldrop are aware of the complexities that arise with Domestic Violence allegations and are prepared to fight for your rights. We will ensure that your right to due process and equal protection will be respected and not ignored.

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