Charlie Garcia, 30, has been arrested in Miramar, Florida for alleged possession of child pornography on his computer. He was arrested on December 17, 2010 and is presently being detained in the Broward County Jail on 30 counts of possessing a photograph depicting a sexual act by a child. His bond per count is presently set at $10,000 for a total bond of $300,000.
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According to news reports, investigators from the Broward Sheriff’s Office internet crimes task force first learned that Charlie Garcia was allegedly sharing child pornography over the internet last month. In a joint operation with the Miramar Police Department,
Broward Sheriff’s Office investigators served a search warrant to inspect Garcia’s computers. Investigators claim to have discovered more than 50 images of children engaged in sex acts with adults. Investigators also claim that 17 of the images depicted infants.
As a criminal lawyer, I can tell you that the very, very, very first thing that must be done on this case is get the bond reduced. According to the Broward Sheriff’s Office, Charlie Garcia has been incarcerated since December 17. There is no doubt in my mind that this is due to the very high bond he is facing. At $300,000, he would have to pay a bondsman $30,000 just to bond out.
In situations like these, a criminal lawyer is able to ask the presiding judge to exercise his/her discretion to lower Garcia’s bond to an amount that is affordable yet high enough to ensure his reappearance in court.
As has been discussed on this blog many times before, the purpose of bond is NOT to punish the defendant. As serious, vile, and reprehensible as these allegations are, Charlie Garcia is presently innocent. Being arrested means nothing more than having an accusation lodged against you.
In America, for those who still care, you are innocent until proven guilty.
However, that does not mean he is free to move about the cabin at will. The fact that he is facing more years in prison than he has left in his natural life is a matter of grave concern for any judge. Specifically, someone like Charlie Garcia presents two issues for a judge. First, there is a chance that he is a flight risk given his exposure to prison time. Second, given the nature of these allegations, especially the sick part about infants, any reasonable judge will be concerned that there is a realistic concern that he is a danger to the community.
Given the totality of these circumstances, a judge will have to do a balancing act when considering a motion to reduce bond filed by a criminal lawyer. On the one hand, it is clear that a $300,000 bond is the same thing as having no bond at all. Put simply, the bond is so high that it is outright unaffordable for the defendant.
As disgusting, offensive, and serious as these charges may be, they are still bondable offenses. That means, as a matter of legal right, Charlie Garica is entitled to a bond he can afford. Again, the law did not create bond as a pre-guilt punishment. Rather it is nothing more than an insurance policy to guarantee the defendant’s reappearance in court to deal with his/her case.
Therefore, Charlie Garcia’s criminal defense lawyer must argue that his bond should be reduced to something that is more reasonable and affordable.
However, the next part of this balancing act concerns how much the bond should be reduced? By $100,000? By $200,000? by $250,000? There is no clear cut formula to answer this question. In fact, different judges will come up with different amounts, depending on their own thinking.
When weighing the risk that Garcia may flee the jurisdiction, a judge will give him credit for having ties to the community and no prior record for fleeing or failing to appear in court. A judge will consider how long he has lived in Broward County, how long he has been employed here, whether or not he owns property in Broward County, has any bank accounts in local banks, and whether or not he has family here.
Put simply, the more attached a person is to the jurisdiction, the less likely he/she will flee it.
When it comes to the risk that he might reoffend, the judge will likely be most swayed by the particular facts of this case. Charges like these are obviously very serious and are given great weight. At the same time, a judge will consider whether or not Charlie Garcia has any prior criminal record, especially for like offenses. While child pornography involves a cycle of abuse that clearly results in the disgusting victimization of children, this particular case does not involve any allegations that Garcia victimized a child personally or directly.
This nuance is important because Charlie Garcia’s case comes down to watching as opposed to doing. Had he directly victimized a specific child, things would be very different, as they should be.
Altogether, I think a bond of $50,000-$100,000 would be reasonable, assuming he has no prior criminal history. Normally, I think a bond of $50,000 is acceptable in a possession of child pornography case. However, the problem I think Garcia has is the fact that 17 of the 30 alleged images are said to have concerned sex acts with infants. Not that any type of child pornography is acceptable, typically speaking, imagery involving infants is a matter of grave concern for a judge. Since roughly half of the 30 images concerned infants, I personally think an increase of 50% would be appropriate. This would put Charlie Garcia in the range of $75,000. Depending on the judge, a bond as high as $100,000 would not be unexpected.