The times we live in now are unprecedented, but regardless of the time, facing criminal charges is a harrowing and life-changing ordeal. This is especially true when one is accused of violent crimes, like arson and riot-related charges. If convicted, the consequences mean lost freedom, monetary penalties and lost educational and employment opportunities. But, for some locals, they are now facing an insurmountable obstacle prior to even going to court, $1 million bail.

The insurmountable bail obstacle

Early Monday morning, several protesters were arrested during protests. The protests occurred after the police shooting of Ricardo Munoz. Each protester faces charges of riot and vandalism and felony arson, among many other protest-related charges.

By itself, these charges would likely not be newsworthy. However, what has brought national attention to our community is the bail. Six of the eight people charged now face $1 million, which was ordered by Lancaster County Magisterial District Judge Bruce Roth Monday evening. According to the Lancaster Police Department and the District Attorney’s office, neither requested $1 million bail.

The problem with $1 million bail

According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, a local advocacy group and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman contend this bail amount is unconstitutional. Specifically, that it violates each charged person’s Eighth Amendment right against excessive bail. If they cannot post this bail, these individuals face being stuck in prison until they are either acquitted or served their time, if convicted.

The consequences

Without wading into the politics of the situation, an extreme bail amount is only warranted in egregious cases, like murder. This is why the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment enshrines ever American’s right against excessive bail.

And, this case exemplifies why it is so important to contact an attorney as soon as humanly possible when one is arrested. If these individuals have an attorney, this bail amount will certainly be appealed. More importantly though, a dedicated defense attorney can craft a defense that can negotiate lessened charges from the prosecutors, or even get prosecutors to drop charges entirely, depending on the defense attorney’s independent investigation.