The justices acknowledged arguments by prosecutors that trial judges have the right to keep certain people behind bars while awaiting trial as a method of protecting the public. And they said that the crime of sexual conduct with a minor is a serious charge.
But Justice Clint Bolick, writing for the unanimous court, said the seriousness of the charge, by itself, is insufficient to result in automatic denial of release. He said prosecutors have to prove that the defendant in question poses a specific threat and that there are no conditions that can be imposed that allow that person's release while protecting the public.
Thursday's ruling comes despite arguments by prosecutors that the justices should honor the will of voters who approved state constitutional provisions in 2002 limiting access to bail.