Proof Evident, Presumption Great
Normally, when you’re arrested for a crime in Florida, you’re entitled to bond. However, if you’re arrested for a crime punishable by death or life in prison, judges can deny you bond. To do so, the law requires that proof of guilt is evident or the presumption is great. Commonly, people shorten the phrase to Proof Evident, Presumption Great. Judges consider this at an Arthur Hearing. But should they consider it at First Appearance? The Florida Supreme Court answers in Thourtman v. Daniel Junior, etc. et al.
First Appearance at Magistrate Court
In Florida, everyone must appear before a judge within 24 hours of arrest. It’s called First Appearance, or Magistrate Court. Check out Rule 3.130. At Magistrate Court, a judge looks at a police report to see if there’s probable cause to hold you in jail. That means the judge looks for some proof of all of the elements of the listed crime. The judge doesn’t hear testimony or look at evidence. It must come from the police report.
If a judge finds probable cause, then the judge can set a bond amount. If there’s no probable cause and the State of Florida fails to correct, then you’re set free. The judge can’t restrict your release.
In reality, Magistrate Court parallels a fast food drive through. Lots of people waiting in line for their turn. There’s little prep work. It’s just a short hearing that lasts a couple minutes at most. Judges don’t have time to pay each case a ton of attention. They rarely take testimony. They move onto the next one.
Arthur Hearing to Find Proof Evident, Presumption Great
Unlike a First Appearance at Magistrate Court, you request an Arthur Hearing. It’s not automatic. You have to file a motion. Once you file a motion for an Arthur Hearing, the burden shifts to the State of Florida to show Proof Evident, Presumption Great. The Florida Constitution requires this standard. If a judge finds Proof Evident, Presumption Great, then the judge can hold someone without bond. That said, it’s similar to a regular bond hearing with that extra factor.
While Magistrate Court moves like a drive through window, Arthur Hearings parallel fine dining. Judges schedule the hearing in advance. One case gets attention in detail. Prosecutors share evidence with the judge and defense before the hearing. The judge reviews evidence and testimony. Sometimes they take hours to complete.
Thourtman’s Robbery Firearm First Appearance
Police arrest for Thourtman for Robbery Firearm. Robbery Firearm defendants face life in prison. Thus, the judge can hold Thourtman without bond. Check out my page on Firearm Offenses to learn more about how Firearms increase punishments.
At First Appearance, the judge looks at the police report and holds Thourtman no bond. There’s no Arthur Hearing or finding of Proof Evident, Presumption Great. Weeks later, Thourtman files a motion for an Arthur Hearing. At the hearing, the judge finds Proof Evident, Presumption Great that Thourtman committed Robbery, but not that with a firearm. Robbery isn’t punishable by life so the judge must set bond. Bond is set at $25,000.
How Did this Get to the Florida Supreme Court?
If the case wasn’t over, how did it get to the Florida Supreme Court so quickly? Interestingly, the day before the Arthur Hearing, Thourtman files a petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus. A writ lets an appellate court look at certain urgent issues. Check out my page on Writs and Petitions to learn more about how you file a Writ.
In this Writ, Thourtman challenges the ruling at First Appearance. It doesn’t matter that a judge held an Arthur hearing the next day. The Third District Court of Appeal can hear a moot issue when it’s capable of repetition, yet evading review. Undoubtedly, Thourtman isn’t the first or last person in this situation. Furthermore, the Third District rules opposite to the Fourth District Court of Appeal on this matter, which lets the Florida Supreme Court sort out the answer.
Must a Judge Hold an Arthur Hearing at First Appearance?
Article I, section 14 of the Florida Constitution says that every person charged with a crime shall be entitled to release unless there’s Proof Evident, Presumption Great of a crime punishable by life or death. Rule 3.130 makes everyone see a judge within 24 hours of arrest to sort out release conditions. In these First Appearance hearings, judges ignore the Arthur Hearing standard. Therefore, the conflict is obvious. Will the Florida Supreme Court require fine dining at the drive through window?
Nope. The Florida Supreme Court allows judges to defer on the Arthur Hearing issue at Magistrate Court. The judge does not need to find Proof Evident, Presumption Great at First Appearance to hold someone without bond.
From a legal standpoint, the Court points out that the right to pretrial release isn’t lost until a judge rules against it. Also, requiring Proof Evident, Presumption Great at First Appearance creates a perverse outcome. Under the same logic, the police could not even arrest someone unless a judge found Proof Evident, Presumption Great in advance. It would become impossible to arrest people for life or death crimes without a prior court order. From a practical standpoint, the Court explains how difficult it would be to require such a highly specialized hearing to happen so soon after arrest.
Read the Thourtman opinion here!
Talk to an Experienced Florida Criminal Defense Attorney!
Just because you’ve been arrested, it doesn’t mean the State will file charges. The State reviews evidence, talks to witnesses and gathers proof. Without proof, the case ends quickly. A good lawyer can help you avoid charges. Sometimes, filing charges isn’t in everyone’s best interest.
The criminal defense firm Brown Legal PLLC operates from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but regularly handles cases throughout South Florida and the rest of the state. Before it’s too late, talk to Mr. Brown and see if he can help you best defend yourself! Reach out over the phone at (954) 524-6700 or through the Contact Page if you have any questions.