“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” – The late Carroll County Chief Magistrate Judge Alton P. Johnson –
When a person is arrested, they will either receive a “pre-set bond” or must appear before a magistrate judge within 72 hours for a first appearance hearing. Pre-set bonds are available for most misdemeanors and low level felonies.
Higher level felony offenses, violations of probation, and domestic violence cases must be addressed by a judge.
Today, most criminal cases fall into either the “alleged victim” or “non-alleged victim” category. Some examples of non-alleged victim cases are trafficking, possession of drugs, DUI (when no one is injured), and illegal possession of a firearm (if it not used.)
The other category is more complex, more emotional, and usually much more serious. Alleged victim crimes range from misdemeanor theft to malice murder. When there is an alleged victim involved, a judge usually needs to inquire into whether bond is appropriate and what conditions would make everyone safe at the first appearance hearing.
Some people accused by an alleged victim of doing something illegal are denied bond at their first appearance. They must wait for a superior court judge to weigh in on bond while they remain incarcerated, yet still presumed innocent by law.
Others are granted a bond after a hearing or by consent of the defense attorney and district attorney. Almost all of these bond orders have one of these two special conditions:
NO VIOLENT CONTACT – This one is easy. In most cases, it is illegal to have violent contact with another person anyway. The judge will usually order this provision when there is a first time domestic dispute and the alleged victim and defendant want to reconcile.
They can have any type of contact as long as it is not violent. Ignoring this provision will subject the defendant to having his bond revoked and face new criminal charges; and
NO CONTACT – This one seems easy as well. But, it is not. I have seen countless people fall into the trap of not understanding what “no contact” means.
No contact means any contact. Period.
The defendant cannot call, email, text, message, or send a carrier pigeon to directly communicate with the alleged victim.
This can be difficult for many people when the alleged victim is contacting them, asking questions about the children, and/or wanting intimacy.
Sometimes, these communications from the alleged victim are genuine. Sometimes, they are meant to have the defendant re-arrested for having contact.
Either way, all communication with the alleged victim should cease upon the issuance of a “no contact” special condition of bond.
The other aspect of “no contact” that is often misunderstood and leads to more trouble is the third party rule.
When a defendant is on bond with a “no contact” provision, he cannot ask other people to send a message to the alleged victim.
The consequences of sending third party messages can be devastating for a number of people:
- Defendant – He can have his bond revoked and be charged with Aggravated Stalking. When this happens, to put it mildly, it is quite challenging to secure the client’s release from custody. Judges tend to be displeased when someone violates their written order. He could also be charged with witness tampering, tampering with evidence, and/or obstruction of justice;
- Alleged Victim – If an alleged victim begins her journey toward reconciliation, she must be careful. By contacting the defendant, she is putting him in jeopardy. If she recants her statements, the prosecutor will rightfully not be happy. She could be charged with False Imprisonment and/or Making A False Police Report; and
- The Third Party – If the Defendant asks someone to send a message to the alleged victim and they follow through, they have just inserted themselves into a dangerous situation. The messenger can be charged with obstruction of justice, witness tampering, and/or tampering with evidence.
Because of the confusion, emotions, and battles that surround bond hearings and even bond orders, it is critical for our citizens to know the differences of “contact” as outlined above.