The Eight Amendment to the United States Constitution includes the following words: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” So how could the Massachusetts legislature pass a law that [re]establishes “dangerousness hearings” where anyone accused of a gun crime can be held for 90 days without bail? This after the Supreme Judicial Court struck down the hearings, ruling in Commonwealth v. Thomas that illegal gun possession is a “passive and victimless crime.” That defendants charged with possessing illicit firearms “cannot be held without bail as a danger to society.” Slippery slope this [via boston.com] . . .
Representative George N. Peterson Jr. voted for the bill when it left the House with provisions that were strictly related to the criminal records law. But he joined 21 other legislators in opposing the bill Saturday after its language had been changed.
“In essence, the bill said a mere presence of a firearm during a routine traffic stop rises to a dangerousness situation in which someone can be held,’’ Peterson said. “That’s just not right.’’
“Dangerousness hearings are supposed to be reserved for the worst of the worst,’’ he said. “This bill leaves a lot of open area for the potential abuse of civil rights.’’
Ya think? Even the bill’s supporters affirm the first part of that sentiment. Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter takes us onto the freeway to hell, paved as it is with good intentions:
The best way to change the behavior of those individuals who are terrorizing our communities with these illegal guns is to let them know that if they are caught, they will be held without bail, prosecuted within 90 days and then convicted and sentenced to jail or state prison for a long time.
As my.ojornal.com reports, when Sutter became DA in January 2007, before the MA Supreme Court ruling, his prosecutors asked for a dangerousness hearing every time someone was arrested and charged with an illegal gun felony.