Court: Mohave County must find alternative to ankle monitor fees
LAKE HAVASU CITY – Mohave Superior Court will need to re-think its approach to electronic monitoring for accused sex offenders after a decision this month by the Arizona Court of Appeals.
Until now, Mohave has been the only county in Arizona to require that defendants in such cases pay the full cost of their own monitoring as they await trial. Defendants could be expected to pay thousands of dollars per year, and hundreds of dollars per month for electronic monitoring as they await their respective trials. In an Oct. 1 decision by the Arizona Court of Appeals, however, Mohave Superior Court will be required to determine whether such monitoring can be effectively, and constitutionally, applied.
“(The law) provides no authority for imposing the cost of pretrial electronic location monitoring on a defendant,” the court’s decision read. The opinion of the court was authored by Appellate Judges Lawrence F. Winthrop, Paul J. McMurdie and Peter B. Swann.
“Additionally, we direct the superior court to hold a hearing on whether electronic monitoring is ‘available’ in Mohave County and, if necessary, to redetermine the method of release or the amount of bail based on an individualized assessment of the factors outlined in (the law).”
Arizona law allows that electronic monitoring be imposed as a condition of release, “if available.” According to the appellate court, however, such availability can only exist in counties that are able and willing to bear that expense.
The court’s decision came in reference to the case of Robert Hiskett, who was charged last year with three counts of sexual conduct with a minor. Hiskett was released under his own recognizance after an appearance before Mohave Superior Court Judge Rick Lambert, under the condition that he wear an electronic GPS ankle monitor.
Hiskett’s attorney, Michael Wozniak, expressed concerns as to the burden of such a requirement for such defendants. He filed a motion with Lambert, stating Hiskett would be unable to afford the $400-per-month device, and requested financial assistance for monitoring from the county. Instead, Wozniak said, Lambert set Hiskett’s bond at $100,000 and ordered that he be incarcerated.
Wozniak appealed the decision in May alongside the American Civil Liberties Union, and argued that Lambert’s decision violated constitutional protections under Arizona and federal law against excessive bail. The appellate court vacated Lambert’s decision and ordered Hiskett’s release, pending a review of Wozniak’s appeal. With last week’s decision by the Appeals Court, Mohave County justices will need to schedule a hearing to determine what new measures can be taken in monitoring defendants in the future.
Attempts to contact Lambert and Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith by telephone were unsuccessful as of Friday evening.
Hiskett is scheduled to appear in Mohave Superior Court on Oct. 28. His trial is scheduled to begin Dec. 3.