The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that people not awaiting trial for the most serious charges have a right to seek immediate release on personal recognizance - and appointed a special master to start hearings on applications for immediate release - as a matter of public health.
We conclude that the risks inherent in the COVID-19 pandemic constitute a changed circumstance within [state bail laws]. To decrease exposure to COVID-19 within correctional institutions, any individual who is not being held without bail under G. L. c. 276, § 58A, and who has not been charged with an excluded offense (i.e., a violent or serious offense) is entitled to a rebuttable presumption of release. The individual shall be ordered released pending trial on his or her own recognizance, without surety, unless an unreasonable danger to the community would result, or the individual presents a very high risk of flight.
The ruling by the state's highest court lets district attorneys and the state attorney general appeal any release requests.
The court excluded people being held pending trial for violent crimes, from murder to armed assault and battery and mayhem; domestic violence; witness intimidation, OUI on a third or subsequent offense; motor-vehicle manslaughter; illegal gun possession; rape and indecent assault and battery; human trafficking; incest; child pornography and trafficking in cocaine or heroin in excess of 200 grams; trafficking in fentanyl or carafentanil. Also barred from immediate release: Anybody charged as an accessory to or part of a conspiracy related to any of the above crimes.