Virus could lead to release of inmates with low bail

20-year-old Leo Santiago Chavez convicted.
20-year-old Leo Santiago Chavez convicted.(Source: Raycom images)
Updated: Mar. 18, 2020 at 10:07 PM CDT
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AUTAUGA COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - On Wednesday, Judge Ben Fuller issued an administrative order that would have released all inmates in three county jails who are being held on a bail amount of $5,000 or less.

Judge Bill Lewis amended the order Wednesday night to require a five-day hold on the release of the inmates for case reviews and objections.

“In an effort to protect the public on the cases in which are on this Court’s Docket, this Court must balance the safety of the Community with the issues presented by COVID-19. Pursuant to Administrative Orders 10 and 11 issued on March 18, 2020 by Presiding Judge Ben Fuller, all Sheriffs are directed to hold all the Defendants on this Court’s caseload for 5 days. During which time pursuant to Order 11, the Sheriffs and the State shall review the cases and file objections in any cases in which the defendant’s release on bond may pose a danger to the community. This also includes cases involving sex offenders who may be released by this Administrative Order without having established residency that complies with the residency laws for the State of Alabama, The Court will then set all objections for hearing, as it must by law. If there is no objection to a Defendant being released prior to the 5 day hold period the state will notify the Court and the Defendant shall be released based on Administrative Orders 10 and 11,” said Lewis.

Fuller, who presides over the 19th Judicial Circuit covering Autauga, Elmore and Chilton counties, moved to release the inmates due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

If released, the inmates must still appear at their next scheduled court appearance.

The order says released inmates should immediately contact their counsel to let them know of their release and for information regarding any change in their next court appearance.

This order is expected to apply to those charged with misdemeanor offenses.

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