Earlier this week, the County of El Paso deputized the County’s Pre-trial Services office as law enforcement. The problem is that it circumvents the judiciary everyone assumes is how the process works in the United States. Most of you who have watched Law & Order understand that the presumption of innocence is based upon the notion of having two adversarial sides determining guilt. The key is adversarial.
The assumption is that law enforcement acts on behalf of the prosecutors. The police investigate crime and the prosecutors prosecute the crime. On the other side of the coin you have the defense attorneys that ensure you are treated as innocent until a jury determines your guilt. In between these two adversarial sides are the magistrates and the judges that ensure that your rights are protected. The judges and magistrates should have no interest in your innocence or guilt. They are expected to be a third and detached party that balances the two sides, the defense versus the prosecution.
Because the system is adversarial, each side focuses on achieving their goals, one keeps you out of jail and the other throws you in jail.
As much as the county wishes to make the issue of the pre-trial services about money, the fact is that it involves the power to take someone’s liberty and rights away. Incarcerating someone is serious business. It will affect them for the rest of their lives. Because of this, if there ever was a time to be “pound foolish and penny wise” is when it comes to the liberty of people.
Look back to the example of the Law & Order television show and you will clearly see where law enforcement is in the triangle of the three sides of jurisprudence. Law enforcement is expected to be on the side of the prosecutors. That is the line in the sand to ensure that the system works.
Bonds are not punitive but are just guarantees to allow you to remain out of jail until your case is adjudicated by the court system. A bond is set to ensure that you make yourself available to the court. As you think about this remember that law enforcement wants to throw you in jail. That is why your defense attorney always tells you to remain silent and say nothing to law enforcement.
Yet, what the county is doing is making you answer sensitive questions to law enforcement in order to be allowed out of jail before you are actually found guilty. The separation of the adversarial system is being pierced and the price is your freedom.
If you truly believe in the notion of “innocent until proven guilty” then you would be against the pre-trial services as the county has envisioned it. There are no two ways about it.