Panama City Woman Arrested For DUI Manslaughter After Fatal June Crash

Finebloom, Haenel & Higgins

On June 18, 2013, Jessica Finch, 26, was driving her 1998 Honda Civic on Highway 2301 in Bayou George near Panama City in Bay County Florida when she crossed the center line, crossed the lane and hit a tree on the opposite side of the road.  Her passenger, Justin Collins, 27, died as a result of the injuries he sustained at the crash and Finch was seriously injured.  On February 12, 2014, Finch was charged with DUI manslaughter for the accident.  According to the arrest warrant, blood tests showed that Finch had methamphetamine and amphetamine in her system at the time of the crash.  Finch was also charged with driving on a suspended license and for driving on a suspended license with a crash involving a serious bodily injury.  Her bond was set at $35,000.

In Finch's case, as with nearly every criminal case, she was entitled to appear before a judge within 24 hours of her arrest in order to have a first appearance.  One reason is to determine if there was probably cause for the arrest, something which does not really apply here because that would have already been determined when Finch's warrant was issued.  The other purpose of the first appearance, however, is to set a reasonable bond for Finch's pretrial release. 

The bond usually set according to a local schedule and is based on things like the kind of crime committed, the likelihood of the accused showing up to court appearances and the defendant's criminal history.  For some cases, especially capital cases or cases where there is a possible life sentence, there is a possibility of no bond being issued at all.  A judge has the discretion to set a bond which is higher or lower than what is provided in the schedule depending on the individual circumstances of the case.  The bond is not the only thing which is determined when it comes to a defendant's pretrial release, conditions relating to that release is also determined.  This includes a curfew or movement restrictions, surrendering a passport or ordering the defendant to wear an alcohol or GPS monitor.  If the bond which is set at the first appearance is not reasonable or has unreasonable restrictions, the defense attorney can move to have it changed. 

Once bond is set, the defendant can either pay the entire amount of the bond or hire a bail bondsman to pay it for them.  The bail bondsman will most often charge 10% of the bond to the defendant in exchange for ensuring that they will show up in court.  If the defendant misses a court appearance or flees, they will forfeit their bond.  If they have used a bail bondsman, it is likely that they will be accountable for the entire amount.