19th Circuit Judge issues order to release some non-violent offenders, held on low bonds, with sheriff approval

The move aimed at reducing the population during coronavirus crisis
Jails, like Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail, are taking extra measures in the wake of...
Jails, like Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail, are taking extra measures in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
Updated: Mar. 19, 2020 at 3:20 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Circuit Court Judge Ben Fuller (Chilton, Elmore, Autuga counties) issued an administrative order Wednesday that would allow non-violent offenders, on $5,000 bond or less to be released from jail based on certain restrictions and with approval from a sheriff.

Judge Fuller, after conferring with two other circuit judges, issued the order in an effort to drop the jail population during the coronavirus crisis.

Judge Fuller said these inmates would be pre-trial detentions, non-violent offenders (low possession cases, minor thefts), being held on $5,000 bond or less. The inmates would have to sign a recognizance bond and find out their next court date.

Final release is also based on the sheriff’s discretion from each county. For instance, if a sheriff finds the inmate to be a danger to him or herself, or the community, the sheriff would deny the recognizance release.

Judge Fuller says this is all in an effort to free up space in the jails and protect the health of inmates, jail staff and officers.

Fuller went on to say these jails house many low-level crime defendants whose families can’t afford $500 to bond them out. Fuller said, “Judges are regular folks, too, who have who regular feelings and regular thoughts.... We understand that families struggle."

Assistant District Attorney CJ Robinson posted on Facebook the DA’s office will screen lists in the county jails. Robinson went on to say he is opposed to the mass release.

On Sunday, the Robinson provided the following update via Facebook.

Update from my previous post: After much work by our dedicated employees in all three counties we filed 59 motions...

Posted by CJ Robinson on Sunday, March 22, 2020

Per Robinson, the district attorney’s office filed 59 oppositions. According to Robinson, rulings will be made tomorrow. From his Facebook post:

After reviewing each case, the following people were about to walk out of our jails: sex offenders who weren’t complying with reporting requirements, one in possession of child porn, those with multiple domestic violence and/or dui arrests, those with a history of alluding law enforcement and/or failing to appear, someone who shoot into an occupied building, drug dealers, and many who committed repeated burglaries, thefts and drug offenses. One even had a pending murder case in a neighboring county. A quarter of the motions we filed were on defendants who had been arrested 15+ times.

Judge Fuller said it was not a mass release. He also said many of the crimes listed in the Facebook post are not the type of crimes that would be considered if an inmate fell under the guidelines for release. Fuller said most of the times those crimes would come with higher bonds and the suspects charged in them would be considered a danger to him or herself of others.

We at the DA’s Office are working diligently in response to the administrative order published yesterday by presiding...

Posted by CJ Robinson on Thursday, March 19, 2020

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