COURT WATCH: Man Kept in Jail for Nonviolent Felony Charge – Only Able to Pay $500 after Recent College Payments   

By Audrey Sawyer

MODESTO, CA – A man accused of possession of a stolen vehicle Tuesday in Stanislaus County Superior Court had his bail reduced from $110,000 to $25,000, but his request for release on his own recognizance was denied by Judge Dawna Reeves.

The accused had advised his Deputy Public Defender Reed Wagner he is currently only able to provide $500 for bail at the time because he recently paid a substantial quantity toward college courses for the next semester.

DPD Wagner said the case does not involve any allegations of violent or serious felony matters, noting, the accused is “currently enrolled in college courses aiming to become an electrician. He has been passing all of his classes and has just paid tuition for the upcoming semester which is $23,000…in custody, he loses his opportunity and a substantial amount of that. He is set to graduate in October.”

DPD Wagner added, based on the nonviolent nature of the charge and “his record, which shows no strikes and possibly two prior convictions, I would ask that he is released on his own recognizance or that bail be lowered. There are less restrictive measures. When I asked about bail that he could afford, he said that conditions are currently tight for him as he recently paid for his schooling. He can pay $500.”

The circumstances around the case currently on calendar were that the accused had been driving and had been pulled over by Ceres police because the car was previously reported stolen. The accused told the police he had the vehicle in his possession since the end of February 2023, another man had allegedly given him the vehicle (the accused says he did not know the last name of this individual).

The man had then told the accused to take care of the car for him, because it was a rental. The individual did not contact the accused after giving the accused access to the vehicle, and the accused denied knowing the car had been stolen.

Deputy District Attorney Matthew Yeoman opposed the release, stating the prosecution is aware of his education, but there is a new charge and he is out on bail pending the new case, adding, “There is a codefendant matter on the 20th. We have it coming back for early case management.”

DPD Wagner noted the other case was on the sheet to be a misdemeanor, and that the accused is not currently on any supervision, and that misdemeanor probation is set to expire tomorrow if the sheet is accurate.

Judge Dawna Reeves confirmed the accused is not currently on probation, but added, “My concern is that looking back on a prior case of his, I had released him under terms to be searchable, that he cannot come to court late. I then released him in March 2024. This current case is alleged to have occurred on April 30, not that long after that.

“I do not think that releasing him on his own recognizance is appropriate. He has appeared again in custody, there is a prior enhancement alleged, we do not provide pretrial release supervision, and the conditions I previously imposed did not effectively cease any new law violations—do you have any suggestions?”

DPD Wagner said that one order ought to be having him remain in school to minimize the risk, but also suggested, “When we look at the case, this is not a serious or violent felony. We really do need to consider what the alternatives are.

“Having him involved in school and having community ties, possibly we can structure it to not being in possession of vehicles not registered to him, or a condition that court could use to address harm in this case. The report is lacking, nothing suggests that there is a punched ignition or anything like that, there is a statement that someone gave him this vehicle, so with that, a reasonable condition would be to tell him that he cannot drive vehicles not registered under his name.”

DDA Yeoman, however, said that while the ignition was not noted to be punched, there was a note describing a “stripping of major components.”

Judge Reeves concluded she would not release the accused, but she will reduce the bail from the initial $110,000 to $25,000.

“The terms mentioned by defense rely on the accused giving his word. He (the accused) gave his word in other cases. Because he is working, he can afford a modest amount of bail. The bail is now $25,000, assuming no new violations, he is searchable while on probation and he will not miss court, he cannot be late or have any failures to appear,” said the judge.

DPD Wagner emphasized the reduction was still likely to be too high for the accused, arguing, “Based on the amount of bail he could afford, I do not think that he can afford that amount. I do believe this creates a de facto detention. He will likely meet with family to see if they can assist him. If he can pay this bail, we can come back in June.”

DDA Yeoman added the other case involves codefendants, so all of the cases are wanted at the same time so that they can all be resolved at once.

All parties agreed to return on April 16 in the same department.

About The Author

Audrey is a senior at UC San Diego majoring in Political Science (Comparative Politics emphasis). After graduation, Audrey plans on attending graduate school and is considering becoming a public defender.

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