Bethsaida Sandoval, a 38 year old Royal Caribbean vacation planner, was arrested last week in Palm Beach, Florida. Her husband, John Lopez, 38, is was also arrested. The duo have been booked for multiple counts of burglary and armed burglary.
While bond has been set on two counts, the remaining 19 counts have no bond. They therefore detained in jail without the possibility of release (until their cases are resolved) at the present time. It is unknown whether or not she intends to hire a private criminal defense lawyer at this time.
When a judge sets bond in a non-capital case, she or he is always going to evaluate three main factors. They are as follows:
1) Nature of the crime 2) Danger to the community 3) Flight risk of the defendant
In a capital case, a special hearing called and “Arthur Hearing” must be had. In an Arthur Hearing, a the prosecutor must prove that proof is evident and the presumption of guilt is great. This is the highest legal standard in the American legal system. It is even higher than the “reasonable doubt” standard used in normal criminal trials.
If the prosecutor is not able to establish “proof evident/presumption great,” then the defendant must be released immediately. However, if the prosecutor is able to establish his or her case to this standard, then the judge has the option of either setting bond or detaining the defendant without bond. Once the prosecutor passes these hurdles, the judge then considers the three factors noted above.
When evaluating these factors, a judge is constantly weighing the pros and the cons against each other. She or he is looking for aggravating factors that make the situation more serious and mitigating factors that make the situation more minimized. By weighing these competing interests, a judge gets a sense of what type of bond is appropriate. Mostly however, setting bond has a lot to do with generally accepted standards in the legal community. A judge will know these standards from experience.
For example, it would be outrageous to set a bond on a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge in the amount of $100,000. However, it would be perfectly reasonable to set such a bond in a drug trafficking case. Each crime has a “standard bond” amount that a judge has discretion to increase or decrease, depending on the circumstances.
Getting back to our three categories, there are specific questions that a judge asks when evaluating these three factors. First, when it comes to the nature of the offense, was the crime a felony or a misdemeanor? Was a person victimized? If so, how seriously? If the crime alleged is a felony, what degree is it? Does this case involve one instance of criminal conduct or multiple offenses over time? Overall, this factor addresses how serious a crime is or is not.
Second, is the defendant a danger to the community? Will this person re-offend while out on bond? Will they victimize more people?
While this is an obvious question to ask when it comes to violent crime, it should also be asked in cases like DUI. If a person has a substance abuse problem, the judge may not allow them to drive or operate heavy machinery while out on bond.
The main source of information regarding one’s propensity to re-offend comes from their criminal history. For example, if a person is arrested for a domestic violence related offense, the judge will not to know if he or she has a criminal history for violent crime. While a lack of history may not improve the situation for the accused, the presence of a history for violence certainly doesn’t help – especially if that history involves a like offense or the same victim.
Third, when determining if the defendant is a flight risk, the court will want to know what ties to the community the defendant has, if any. For example, how long has the person resided in the county in question? Do they own property there? Do they have family ties, such as children or a spouse in the county? Do they have bank accounts or business interests there? Where are they employed, if they have a job at all?
Judges will also consider whether or not a person has ties to another country. For example, if you are not a United States citizen and do have extensive ties to another country, the judge may require you to surrender your passport.
Finally, a judge will want to know if the defendant has any known history for failing to appear in court or for fleeing.
If the judge sets a bond that is so high that the defendant cannot afford to post it themselves or hire a bondsman, a motion to reduce bond should be filed.
In the case of Bethsaida Sandoval, it is clear that her abuse of trust, misuse of customer information, and the extensive, repeat nature of her alleged criminal conduct are all very negative factors when it comes to setting bond.
At the end of the day, Sandoval is facing serious prison time for what she has done. It is undoubtedly in her best interests to hire the most capable criminal defense team possible.