Alaska criminal defense lawyers filed a lawsuit against the state Wednesday asking for a court order putting a hold on a law scheduled to take effect today that the suit contends would curtail the rights of a person accused of a crime from being allowed out on bail.
The lawsuit, filed in state Superior Court in Anchorage, calls the new bail laws unconstitutional.
"It eviscerates the constitutional right to bail for a large class of defendants," the suit says. "It allows for the imposition of bail conditions that can only be viewed as punitive and an attempt to turn pretrial release into a pre-probationary period."
The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Alaska Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and several Alaska attorneys.
The state Legislature passed the bill in April and Gov. Sean Parnell signed it into law in May, with an effective date of today.
Among the elements of the new law is a shifting of responsibility in the courtroom when it comes to arguing for bail. Specifically, an accused person will now have to present evidence to the judge that certain bail conditions will ensure his appearance in court and will ensure community safety. Defendants who can't prove that they should be out on bail will be automatically held without bail until trial, the lawsuit says.
Up until now, the burden of proof has been on the prosecutor to show that a defendant needed to be behind bars until trial.
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