By Diana Hefley Herald Writer
EVERETT — A Seattle man charged with drunken driving will remain behind bars without any chance to bail out after a Snohomish County Superior Court judge ruled that a lower court had legal authority to deny the man bail because he was convicted of another crime while awaiting trial.
Attorneys for Israel Hinojosa argued that their client has the state Constitution on his side. A District Court judge didn’t have the right to order him held without bail before he’s had a fair trial, they contend.
Bail isn’t supposed to be punishment. It is set to assure people show up to their court hearings. A high bail also is a means to assure public safety if there’s a possibility the defendant may commit a violent crime, intimidate a witness or interfere with the court.
The state Constitution guarantees that people, before they are convicted of a crime, have the right to bail, public defender Sara Ayoubi wrote in a petition. The Constitution says no-bail orders are reserved only for defendants who are charged with aggravated murder where proof is evident, she wrote.
Ayoubi filed a petition last week asking a Superior Court judge to order Judge Jeffrey Goodwin to set bail for Hinojosa. Goodwin presides in the south division of the county’s District Court.
Prosecutors opposed the petition, arguing that judges do have discretion to deny bail for people who have broken the rules.
The Constitutional right to bail has exceptions as seen in other cases decided by the courts, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Charles Blackman wrote in court papers. The right is not absolute, he said.
Superior Court Judge Eric Lucas agreed with Blackman.
Judges have the inherent power to deny bail when there is a willful violation of the conditions of release, Lucas said. Hinojosa also demonstrated that he was a danger to the community, the judge said.
Hinojosa, 40, was charged in June with misdemeanor drunken driving stemming from traffic stop in May south of Everett. Prosecutors allege that he had a blood alcohol level of .129. The legal limit is .08.
Hinojosa was arraigned in District Court in Lynnwood. He was released on his own personal recognizance and not required to post any bail. He was ordered not to drink alcohol or commit any new crimes.
A week later, Hinojosa was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving in King County. He was later charged there with drunken driving.
He showed up for hearings in Lynnwood on the Snohomish County case in September and November and was allowed to remain out of custody for seven months.
He pleaded guilty Jan. 5 to the King County drunken-driving charge. Later that week, he showed up for a hearing in Lynnwood. That’s when Goodwin ordered Hinojosa taken into custody and held without bail.
The judge said Hinojosa violated the terms of his release by being convicted of drunken driving in King County.
Ayoubi argued this week that there were no grounds for the judge’s decision.
Hinojosa was advised at his Snohomish County arraignment that if he violated the conditions of his release he would forfeit any bail or bond posted. He also could be ordered to appear back in court or there would be a bench warrant for his arrest.
Nowhere was he told that he could be jailed without bail, she argued.
“There is a limitation on what a judge can do,” Ayoubi said.
Veteran public defender Sonja Hardenbrook said she’s never seen a case where a man charged with a misdemeanor is ordered held without bail before conviction.
Even in most murder cases bail is set, she said.
Her office is concerned that people charged with a misdemeanor will be locked up for long stretches while their cases are resolved, Hardenbrook said. That could mean they spend more time in jail than they might be sentenced to if they were convicted.
Earlier this month, Gov. Chris Gregoire announced her support for a Constitutional amendment that would give judges more discretion to deny people bail. The announcement came in response to the death of four Lakewood police officers at the hands of a convicted felon who was out on bail.
State lawmakers are proposing changes to the Constitution that would allow judges to deny a person bail before trial if the judge believes that is the only way to assure public safety.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.