By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
Florida’s tough new uniform bond schedule, which took effect Jan. 1, is already under “numerous’’ constitutional challenges throughout the state, according to court papers filed in one such challenge in Miami-Dade.
The Miami-Dade case, now pending before the 3rd District Court of Appeal, involves Orlando Chillon Hernandez, who was arrested at his northwest Miami home on the afternoon of Jan. 9 on a charge of felony battery after he allegedly struck his wife in the face with a ceramic coffee mug. She suffered lacerations on her left eyebrow and below her left eye.
Hernandez had no arrest history.
His wife, Grety Companioni, told police at the scene, and a judge at her husband’s first court appearance the next day, that her husband, 35, is mentally ill and under the influence of medication prescribed by his doctor.
“The victim advised that the defendant is diagnosed with anxiety and is on medication. The victim stated that [during] the last several days the defendant has not been sleeping, making irrational statements and stating that he is going to die,” the police report says. Hernandez made the same “spontaneous statements to officers on the scene advising people were out to get him and that he was going to die,” the report says.
Companioni also told Circuit Judge Mindy Glazer that she was not afraid of her husband, and that he ‘‘had never been physically aggressive before, but that he had a panic attack” after “accusing her of trying to do Santeria on him.”
A ‘DANGEROUS CRIME’
Glazer found probable cause and because it was domestic violence it was deemed a “dangerous crime.” The prosecutor argued Hernandez wasn’t eligible for pre-trial release on a nonmonetary bond because of requirements in the new bond law that prohibits a judge at first appearance from releasing a defendant arrested for a “dangerous crime” on nonmonetary conditions.
Assistant Public Defender Rebecca Coury countered that the law, which amended the state’s existing statute on pretrial detention and release, was unconstitutional.
“Almost twenty years ago, the Florida Supreme Court of Florida declared that this statute was an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers because it was procedural,” Coury wrote in her court filing.
The legal argument is technical, but it boils down to the idea that the Legislature has the power to substantially change a law, while the courts control the courts’ procedures.
“By governing only when it can happen, not what happens, the statute is procedural, and that is for the courts, not the legislature,” wrote Assistant Public Defender John Eddy Morrison in the appellate petition for a writ of habeas corpus, which is invoked to protect against unlawful or indefinite detention.
Judge Glazer, however, denied Coury’s objection and imposed on Hernandez a $1,000 bond. She also issued a modified stay-away order allowing Hernandez to have contact with his wife so long as it isn’t violent or threatening.
Hernandez remained in jail another four nights until he posted bond on Jan. 16, court records show.
‘GREAT PUBLIC IMPORTANCE’
Meanwhile, the Public Defender’s Office filed an immediate appeal at the 3rd DCA challenging the law’s constitutionality on the same grounds.
“Because this petition raises questions of the constitutionality of a statute and the constitutional separation of powers that it is an issue of great public importance,” the petition says. “Since this law because [sic] effective on January 1, 2024, this issue has recurred several times a day in the Eleventh Judicial Circuit [Miami-Dade].
“The statute has already been declared an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers by the Supreme Court of Florida, and the amendment did nothing to solve that unconstitutionality,” the petition says. It asks the court to grant the writ, declare the law, 907.041(5)(b), unconstitutional and order Judge Glazer to consider nonmonetary conditions of release for Hernandez.
But Miami-based Assistant Attorney General David Llanes argued that the law is constitutional.
“Petitioner was arrested for a dangerous crime…He now seeks to evade the Legislature’s commonsense limitation on release on nonmonetary conditions at first appearance by arguing that section 907.071(5)(b) [sic] violates Florida’s separation of powers doctrine, which generally prohibits the Legislature from dictating courtroom procedure. He overlooks, however, that the Legislature has the power to adopt procedures that are intertwined with the substantive aspects of a bill,’’ Llanes wrote. “That is precisely what it did here.”