DUI DIVERSION UPDATE

12:37 PM JAABLOG email to SAO PIO:

Mr. Pryor stated he was in favor of DUI diversion, similar to Palm Beach County and Miami-Dade, as supported by MADD.

Is this still the case, and when can a DUI diversion program be expected to be in place?

SAO PIO response at 5:06 PM:

The goal is to have a DUI diversion program, supported by MADD, established in 2022. Senior prosecutors and others are still meeting and gathering data and information to establish a program that emphasizes public safety and fairness.

5:15 PM JAABLOG response:

In the meantime, shouldn’t there be some consideration given to those with open DUI’s who are first offender’s, and who meet the necessary requirements for the anticipated diversion program, which will likely mirror the neighboring MADD approved, long standing diversion programs in Miami and Palm Beach? Is it necessary to fully prosecute these individuals who happen to have the misfortune of being charged while awaiting the new program, instead of offering breakdowns?

(JAABLOG will update Monday with the SAO’s reply)

Independent – Baltimore ends war on drugs

” … What surprised many people – including Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison – was that the reduction in low-level prosecutions appears to have triggered a decline in nearly all categories of crime in the city … As violent crime skyrocketed in cities across the nation, those crimes in Baltimore – a city that is still among the most violent in the country – did not.”

REOPENING NOTES

Sent by BACDL President Bill Barner, earlier today:

The Chief Judge held a meeting today to update everyone on the courthouse reopening. Here are my notes:

  • Throughout the reopening, the courts will continue to use zoom
  • Hybrid Hearings: there are eight courtrooms equipped to allow zoom appearances and spectatorship during in-person jury trials.
  • County criminal jury trials began today, and the courthouse has also begun grand jury proceedings.
  • First week in May, in-person hearings at the satellite courthouses will begin to be phased in.
  • Felony jury trials will begin in mid-late May. Judge John Murphy and/or Judge Martin Fein will have their own floor for murder trials.
  • Masks must be worn everywhere at all times
  • Normal courthouse activities are expected to resume by late July or early August.

JAABCAM (FVOP-19 EDITION)

Jury Box, side view with dividers between the individual jurors/inmates …
Court staff with “The Owl,” a super sensitive listening device for Zoom and record purposes …
APD Nawal Bashimam, today before the first hearing litigated in-person to evidentiary findings in Broward since the shut-downs. Notice the telephone, the only way counsel is allowed to speak with an in-custody client. Inmates are sequestered in the jury box, and attorney’s may not approach. The judge said it’s because BSO doesn’t want inmates being infected by outside people, potentially causing an outbreak in the jail …
Inmate phone extension in the jury box …

(County courtrooms outfitted for misdemeanor, out of custody jury trials set to commence next week, were locked and unavailable for inspection this morning)

ACLU COVID-19 JAIL SETTLEMENT

MIAMI HERALD ‘I almost died in there’ (3/17/21)

” … In the year since COVID struck, the Broward jail system has had 378 detainees and 323 staffers test positive.

The Miami-Dade Department of Corrections has had more cases and was less forthcoming with data. After numerous requests for information over more than a week, spokesman Juan Diasgranados said the jail would not provide the cumulative number of positive tests for detainees or staff, even though the facility is responsible for providing the healthcare of those it detains. Diasgranados would say only that the current tally of active cases is 30 detainees and 64 staff. Diasgranados said “less than five” detainees have died of COVID, but would not provide a specific count.

The Herald obtained more specific information from a different agency: Jackson Health System. The county’s public hospital network, serving the poor and the incarcerated, among others, said Miami-Dade jails have had 1,864 detainees and 846 staffers test positive since the virus manifested itself. Jackson placed the death count at three.

Diasgranados said high case counts in the early stage of the virus were due to a “proactive” approach to testing asymptomatic detainees. Broward, in contrast, has apparently not focused testing on detainees without symptoms ...

Complaints prompted a class-action lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union, which has resulted in a settlement not quite finalized because of the multi-phased procedure for completing such litigation. Provisions, some of them already implemented, include expanded COVID testing, rules barring COVID-negative detainees from being housed with positive detainees, and giving medically vulnerable detainees twice-daily temperature checks …

Background“ACLU v. BSO” (6/5/20)

WITNESS THE CHANGE …

New Times – Judge’s Gambit (2008)

Broward courts are set to reopen next week for in-person Final Violation of Probation (FVOP) trials. Witnesses and attorneys must appear in-person, while friends, family, and observers will only be permitted to attend via Zoom.

Status hearings are being held this week, with the easy to fix cases, mostly those not designated as VFO, for “Violent Felony Offender,” getting resolved to county time or reinstatements of supervision, just as they’ve been for months now on the regular in-custody Zoom division dockets.

The problem, of course, remains the VFO qualified offenders, those individuals with qualifying offenses they’re on probation for, or have as priors, even if they’re old. VFO is a deceptive term; it’s possible, and common, for someone who has never thrown a punch, or having committed a violent act a long, long time ago, to be held as VFO, even if they’re on probation for a non-violent charge. The majority of the cases being set for trial next week seem to involve VFO’s accused of “technical” violations of the type highlighted in the Gardiner article above, not involving new arrests while on probation. Since the pandemic started, the SAO and many judges have been resistant to stating that many of these Defendants are “not a danger to the community,” the requirement to a VFO being spared prison and put back out onto their original probationary or modified new terms. This has caused a backlog in the jails and, it’s believed, jumpstarted the need for the extremely short-noticed FVOP reopening next week.

The status hearings we’ve observed thus far in anticipation of next week’s trials have yielded few surprises. As previously stated, the easy ones are being handled, while prison time is being doled out on others. Many stiff prison offers are being rejected, and those cases are keeping their previous haphazardly assigned trial dates for next week, since the judges don’t seem willing to state any type of position on dangerousness, preferring to wait until next week. Anyone hoping for more flexibility on behalf of the SAO under Harold Pryor in these situations, given the “technical” nature of most of the violations, are most certainly disappointed.

And now the main point: next week’s live-Zoomed trials offer a historic opportunity for anyone interested in criminal justice reform to easily witness how a large segment of the mass incarceration problem, specifically violations of probation of a technical nature, are traditionally handled in Broward County. There are, of course, plenty of serious offenders who have earned a trip to prison, but there are many others who may be sent up the river for long stretches that many believe shouldn’t be under a modern, reform-minded State Attorney.

Be sure to spread the word. A lot of things have gone down unnoticed in courtrooms across the country over the years that have contributed to the mass incarceration crisis that would shock the average layperson, but with Zoom, can now be easily observed from the comfort of home or office. It’s just about the only good thing we can think of coming out out of the pandemic, so if you’re committed to change, spread the word, and stay tuned here for dockets and Zoom links for next week’s Zoom FVOP trials …

JAABLOG – GOT VFO? GOT ARTHUR? (4/20/2020)

DELAY!

The Soft Reopening has been delayed. The Stakeholders reportedly met yesterday, and decided to push back the proposed March 8th date for misdemeanor jury trials.

Felony “Technical” VOP’s are still slated to start in-person on March 15th in two courtrooms, with Marty Fein and John Murphy presiding. So long as there aren’t new law allegations, the VOP’s will be status’d before Fein and Murphy, and if not resolved, set for FVOP in-person. The VOP procedures are still a work in progress, so don’t hold us to anything. The jury trial delay is, however, a done deal …