Despite sticker shock, COA affirms $150K bail for teen charged in deadly crash

Noting several times its limited role in reviewing the denial of a request to reduce bail, the Court of Appeals of Indiana has affirmed a trial court’s ruling that set bail at $150,000 for an Elkhart County teenager charged in a deadly auto accident.

Ruby Barcenas Medina, then 17, was driving a black Chevrolet when she allegedly caused the vehicle to crash, killing the passenger, who was her boyfriend. A sample of her blood taken after the accident indicated she had been using marijuana.

Subsequently, Medina was charged with causing death when operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated and causing death when operating a vehicle with a Schedule I or II controlled substance, or its metabolite, in her blood, both as Level 4 felonies. The Elkhart Circuit Court set bail at $150,000, which is 15 times higher than the local advisory bail amount of $10,000.

After a hearing, the trial court denied Medina’s motion for a reduction in her bail. She then filed a motion to reconsider and a motion to correct error. The trial court denied both.

The Court of Appeals affirmed in Ruby Barcenas Medina v. State of Indiana, 22A-CR-167.

Citing DeWees v. State, 180 N.E.3d 261 (Ind. 2022), the appellate panel explained its narrow role in appeals claiming abuse of discretion in setting bail.

“We read DeWees as emphasizing the deference appellate courts must give to trial court determinations regarding bail,” Judge Elizabeth Tavitas wrote for the COA. “So long as the trial court follows the proper procedure, and the trial court’s decision is based on the facts and circumstances in the record, we must affirm its decision, even if we believe the court made the wrong call.”

The appellate court noted the trial court echoed DeWees in pointing out that Medina could potentially be sentenced to 24 years, and that defendants facing lengthy incarcerations usually fail to appear for trial. Also, the COA did not find the trial court erred by determining Medina posed a danger to others based on her continued drug use and her score under the Indiana Risk Assessment System’s PreTrial Assessment Tool, or IRAS-PAT, which determined she was at a “moderate” risk to reoffend.

Although it agreed the amount was high, the appellate panel said it could not ignore that Medina would only have to raise 10% of that amount to post a bail bond.

“Given the trial court’s findings regarding Medina’s flight risk and the danger she posed to others if released,” Tavitas wrote, “we cannot say that the trial court abused its discretion by setting Medina’s bail at $150,000 with a bail bond of approximately $15,000.”

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