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Substantial Evidence is Required for the Denial of Bail

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Article provided by Lauren Williams, Legal Writer for The Law Offices of Randolph H. Wolf.
Article 1, § 11 of the Texas Constitution provides the right to bail to all defendants except those charged with capital offenses. Article 1, § 11a is one of the exceptions to Article 1, § 11. Under Article 1, § 11a, the courts can deny bail to a defendant. The Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas recently vacated the order of a trial court that denied bail under Tex. Const. Article 1, §11a stating that the State failed to present evidence “substantially showing” the Appellant’s guilt for the burglary of a habitation.

The appellant, Burton Leon Spell, was arrested on January 6, 2013 and jailed for a new offense of burglary. After a hearing on January 8, 2013, the trial court denied bail under Article 1, §11a, because Appellant was alleged to have committed a felony (burglary of a habitation) while released on bail for a prior felony for which he had been indicted. On appeal, the appellant contended that State failed to present evidence “substantially showing” his guilt for the burglary of a habitation.

The State presented Deputy William Land to provide evidence against the appellant. The Deputy testified that he met and spoke with the owners of a mobile home who told him that ‘someone’ had broken into their home and removed the copper wiring from the ceiling fans. The owners could only tell that someone had been staying in their mobile home without permission as they did not live in the home. The owners did not know if any other property was missing from the home. Land also testified that the people who lived next door to the mobile home told him that the appellant and his girlfriend had been staying at that home the week prior to the Deputy’s visit to the mobile home.

For guilty of burglary, the State has the burden to present evidence “substantially showing” defendant’s guilt. The courts generally consider the evidence in light of general rule that favors the allowance of bail.

In the present case, the State could produce evidence to show that appellant had been staying in the mobile home without permission about a week before the visit of the Deputy. The State could not produce any evidence to show when the owners had last checked the mobile home as they did not live in there. Moreover, the State failed to produce any evidence to show that how long the home had been vacant so as to provide a time frame in which the theft of the copper wire could be ascertained. The State could produce only evidence to show the presence of the appellant for a week without any connection to the theft of the copper wire.

The Court of Criminal Appeals held that the evidence presented by the State does not substantially show the guilt of the appellant. Therefore, the Court set aside the order of the trial court and remanded the case to the trial court to set a reasonable bail.

The opinion on this case can be found here: http://law.justia.com/cases/texas/court-of-criminal-appeals/2013/ap-76-962-1.html

The above article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Madrid Law.