UPDATE: Judges refute claims made about Marion County justice system following council committee meeting

Indianapolis Area Crime

INDIANAPOLIS — UPDATE: The Marion Superior Court is providing more information about the process of the bail system in the county. Judge Amy Jones said the bail schedule is set by the local judiciary, not the state courts or state supreme court.

Jones is the presiding judge and presides over criminal court. She said people arrested in Marion County are brought to the basement of the city-county building for an initial hearing, and that’s been the process since Sept. 30, 2016.

As the courts are processing those arrested, they see the person’s name, date of birth, and arresting charge. This is before the prosecutor files any formal charges.

Jones said if the charge is a level 6 felony or lower, those processing the arrestees look at whether the person has a pending case or if they are violating their community corrections orders or parole.

Since July 2020, people with pending cases “have been pulled from the screening process and the judge then looks at their case before they are continued to be processed. They will not go through the automatic bail matrix.”

This works the same way for a community correction or parole violation, Jones said. From here, the judges, who operate 24/7 from the CCB, will make a final bond decision.

Every person arrested goes through a risk assessment while being processed.

“One of our staff members goes through and completes an interview with the individual,” Jones explained. “Some of the information is self-reported, but what we’re very fortunate to have now is the opportunity to have verified information. We have state databases that we’re able to confirm whether or not the information the person is telling us is accurate. We’re also able to obtain additional information because we do have the statewide case management system to find out if they have cases pending in other counties. Certainly, that elevates to the judge so that the judge can review that.”

Within the county’s bond setup, there is a specific part carved out for domestic violence. The cash bond for Level 6 felonies in domestic violence cases is $2,000, and misdemeanors is $1,000 cash.

Jones said bonds can also be enhanced.

“Bottom line is, we always have judicial discretion that there are unique circumstances to the individual and those things can be considered by the judge, and maybe there are additional conditions they’re putting on an individual,” Jones said.

Jones explained the prosecutor has the opportunity to file a motion for a “greater than standard bond.” This is where the prosecutor can bring details of the case they believe are ‘particularly egregious’ and bring them to the court’s attention. This does not happen in every case and can happen during the immediate processing of the arrestee.

After a person is arrested, the prosecutor has 18 hours to make a charging decision. If they can’t make a decision, they can file a motion for a 72-hour continuance to allow additional opportunity to investigate further before filing charges. If no charges are filed, the person is released. 

People cannot be held longer than 72 hours without formal charges unless there is probable cause, Jones said.

“If charges are not filed against the individual, the court has no jurisdiction to hold them,” Jones said. “That just goes to the basic tenents of the constitution and due process.”

We also heard from the Indiana Supreme Court following our report Wednesday night. The supreme court echoed the bail schedule is not set by the state.

“The bond is a local decision,” Kathryn Dolan, Chief Public Information Officer, said. “It is NOT approved by the State or the Indiana Supreme Court.”

Original story:

The heads of the Marion County Criminal Justice System went in front of the Indianapolis City-County Council’s Public Safety & Criminal Justice Committee to answer direct questions. Councilors wanted to know what solutions they are bringing to the table.

The conversation revealed a weak spot in the criminal justice system. Prosecutor Ryan Mears confirmed a magistrate does not staff the processing center around the clock, and the state has a set bond schedule regardless of a person’s criminal history or pending cases. Mears said a magistrate would be a welcomed addition.

“For those in Marion County who don’t know, when you are arrested on an offense, your bail is predetermined,” Mears told councilors. “…Our bail’s going to be the same regardless of what our criminal history might be.”

Mears said the set bail schedule does make the processing more efficient and ensures people are treated equally, but there is an issue.

“The problem that I have with it is it does not consider if an individual has multiple pending cases,” Mears said. “Because no one reviews it, your fate is already predetermined based on the schedule.”

Mears explained the bail schedule is set by the state courts and approved by the Indiana Supreme Court. During the meeting Republican District 23 Councilor Paul Annee asked Mears, a democrat, to draft a letter with him and other councilors to the people in power.

“I think we’re past writing letters, I think you need call them up,” Mears said.

“And you would be willing to [work together],” Annee questioned.

“Absolutely,” Mears said.

This information confirms what Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police President Rick Snyder and Indianapolis TenPoint President Rev. Charles Harrison have said for years: that repeat violent offenders could be released back to the streets because of a lack of checks on their criminal past. Yesterday, a man was killed at the Towne & Terrace Apartments 48 hours after he was released from jail.

“You’re cycling people back into a neighborhood with no plan,” Snyder said. “There is no plan.  There is no additional resources.”

IMPD Chief Randal Taylor confirmed to councilors the department does keep track of the people they arrest for violent crimes after those people are released from jail for “whatever reason.”

Taylor also said the people they are arresting in homicide cases have a wide range of criminal history, including some that do not have any previous history.

“There’s a group of people that commit crimes on a regular basis, we kind of know who they are,” Taylor said. “They’re familiar to us. For whatever reason, they decide to continue to commit crime. But there’s also that group that doesn’t really have much of a criminal history. That’s a little more confusing, harder to track obviously. But those people exist as well.”

Chairman Leroy Robinson said he is working with Council President Vop Osili to convene a meeting with leaders within the criminal justice system next week to discuss ways to improve communication and find solutions to the public safety crisis. He said this will be a public meeting.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Most Popular

Latest News

More News