Releasing Inmates Suspected of Violent Crimes or with Criminal Histories on Supervised Release is a Danger to the Community
New bail reform and criminal justice initiatives are causing concern around the United States. Cash bail has been removed for crimes classified as ‘low-risk’ in several states, including New Jersey, Oregon, New Mexico, Washington DC, Wisconsin and Baltimore, Maryland. New York is scheduled to begin their new bail reform procedures on January 1st, 2020 and many of the state officials and law enforcement agencies are concerned about how the new laws will affect its citizens.
Although Florida has not removed cash bail from our judicial system, there have been countless pretrial defendants accused of violent crimes who have been released on their own recognizance (OR) or on supervised own recognizance (SOR). An excellent example took place this past week in Palm Beach County Detention Center located on Gun Club Road in West Palm Beach.
Jason Knowles, age 40, who resides in Riviera Beach was arrested on October 27, 2019 for Battery – Touch or Strike then quickly released on SOR by Judge Booras.
SOR Release was intended for non-violent releases. But when dealing with violent individuals, secured bail is the best viable solution because every bondsman is required when posting bail to have a co-signor indemnifying responsibility for the release and court appearance for the defendant.
Most often times, in cases like Mr. Knowles, the family and/or friends opts for the cool-off period to allow the defendant time to think about his actions instead of just releasing him hours after the incident occurred with a court-ordered release.
According to the Criminal Probable Cause Affidavit submitted by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, Knowles was incarcerated in response to a domestic violence complaint. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch Clerk indicated during the 911 call it was reported that there was a male acting aggressively towards his family with people screaming “Let go of me!” in the background.
When deputies arrived at the scene, the suspect was sitting on the couch in between two minor children who were in distress, crying and screaming. Knowles appeared to be in an aggravated state and was acting aggressively towards his mother.
The affidavit specified that Knowles continued to act in an ‘aggravated state’ towards his family while interacting with the officers responding to the complaint.
The deputies requested Knowles meet with them outside of the home to help calm down the family. As the officers attempted to get a statement from the suspect, he continued to show hostility and began to pace back and forth with his fists clenched. He was eventually detained for safety reasons.
A statement was collected from the suspect’s mother who explained Knowles was acting aggressively with her over money. She also added that her son ripped the phone from her hand and slapped her arm while she was trying to speak with the 911 Operators.
Knowles denied his mother’s allegations.
However, the deputies noted on their report that Knowles remained in an agitated state and made several threatening comments while in the back of the patrol car. The most alarming were statements, such as ‘the next time he was going to stab his mother through the neck while he choked her.’
Knowles continued ranting that he would do this while deputies were at the door and there wasn’t anything that could be done.
The deputies concluded their report with, “Knowles, due to his erratic behavior and statements about killing his mother, appeared to be a danger to others. As such, a Law Enforcement Baker Act was annotated on the form and given to the PBSO Jail Staff.
Although the affidavit submitted by PBSO indicated the suspect ‘appeared to be a danger to others’, Knowles was released by a judge on court ordered SOR (supervised release) the next day. No cash bond was required.
In Florida, Supervised Own Recognizance release (SOR) is not intended for inmates who have been accused of any type of dangerous crime, including Acts of Domestic Violence. However, Jason Knowles was released on SOR putting his family (and other good citizens) in danger.
Releasing suspects on pretrial inmate release who are accused of dangerous crimes or who have lengthy criminal histories was not what SOR was intended for in Florida. For more information on the state’s legislative intent and rules of procedure for pretrial release with non-monetary conditions, visit the 2019 Florida Statutes, 907.041.