We were part of the coalition of attorneys that brought the litigation eventually resulting in the United States Supreme Court’s seminal decision in Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103 (1975). Before that litigation, people who were arrested languished in jail for weeks based on decisions of the police officers and the state attorney. They were often not brought before a judge who could neutrally evaluate the evidence against them to determine whether probable cause existed.
Gerstein v. Pugh held that liberty could not depend on a mere determination by police officers or state attorneys. From that decision until today, a judge has had to determine if the state has enough evidence to hold a person. The state itself cannot make that determination. We continue to bring actions to enforce this law when it is violated. Blount v. Spears, 758 So. 2d 1287 (Fla. 3d DCA 2000).
The first appearance or “bond” hearings created by Gerstein v. Pugh usually occur within 24 hours after a person is arrested. At this hearing, the court informs the person of the charges against them and sets the conditions for their pretrial release, often a monetary bond. We continue to bring litigation to ensure this 24-hour requirement is met. Vigoreaux v. Manning, 714 So. 2d. 610 (Fla. 3d DCA 1998).
We have also successfully challenged restrictions that have been placed on a person’s eligibility for release at a first appearance hearing. In State v. Raymond, 906 So. 2d 1045 (Fla. 2005), we challenged Section 907.041(4)(b), Florida Statutes, prohibiting a person charged with a “dangerous crime” to be granted nonmonetary pretrial release at a first appearance hearing. The Florida Supreme Court agreed that the statute violated the separation of powers clause of the Florida constitution, because it was a procedural rule that regulated the timing of a person’s eligibility for release on nonmonetary conditions.
Before we took action, the Miami-Dade County Corrections and Rehabilitation Department indefinitely detained individuals who had immigration holds, until Immigration and Custom Enforcement came to pick them up from the jails. Many individuals were detained several weeks on immigration holds, and some were detained two months or longer. Federal law, however, only allows Miami-Dade County to detain individuals on an immigration hold for 48 hours, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. After we filed numerous habeas petitions, Miami-Dade County agreed to release all individuals on immigration holds as soon as this 48-hour period expires.