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Monday, April 08, 2013
Ind. Decisions - Commentary on today's Lopez decision
Commentary by Joel Schumm, professor at Indiana University's Robert H. McKinney School of Law
Today's Lopez decision is one of a handful in the past few years that has reversed a trial court's bail decision. The final footnote of the opinion seems to highlight a split on the Court of Appeals on an important issue: "Bail should be established by the trial court and not by this Court on appeal. Reeves v. State, 923 N.E.2d 418, 422 (Ind. Ct. App. 2010)."
Other appellate case have included a specific amount of reduction, include Winn ("We reverse and remand with instructions that the trial court grant Winn’s motion [to reduce a $25,000 cash bond to a $25,000 10% bond]") and Sneed ("Sneed’s $25,000 bail is not excessive, but the trial court abused its discretion by requiring cash only bail and denying Sneed’s request for the option of a surety bond.").
These latter cases (Winn and Sneed) take the preferable approach. The Court of Appeals has before it more than ample information to make a decision, just as it does in reducing sentences to a specific term of years. Moreover, by failing to set a specific bail amount, another appeal seems quite possible. For example, the trial court in Lopez may decide the $3,000,000 surety plus $25,000 cash bond should be reduced to $2,000,000 or something still excessive. The defendants would then be required to initiate another appeal and wait months longer for a decision. The decision in today's appeal took more than five months from the filing of the notice of appeal, which is unusually quick for an appeal, but still a very long time for individuals confined to a jail cell instead of free on pretrial bail.