BAIL INFORMATION JUST IN CASE YOU’RE PLACED UNDER ARREST IN TAMPA, FL
Bail is usually a simple matter in Florida. If you’re placed under arrest and charged with a crime, you will appear before a judge who will decide if you can be released until your case is resolved or goes to trial. Typically, only those accused of the most serious crimes are denied bail.
But let’s assume the charge against you is somewhat less serious. If your bail is set at $25,000, and you just happen to have $25,000, you can pay the bail amount and it will be returned when you appear for your trial. If you fail to appear, you lose the entire bail amount.
YOU MAY NEED THE SERVICES OF A BAIL BONDSMAN
If, like most people, you don’t happen to have a spare $25,000, you can hire a bail bondsman. For a percentage of your bail amount, typically ten percent, the bondsman will post your bail.
In Florida, the exception to the ten percent rate is when a bail bondsman must post a federal bond on your behalf. If you are charged with a crime in federal court, the bondsman will require fifteen percent of the total bail amount.
WHAT IF YOU FAIL TO APPEAR IN COURT?
You must appear in court for the bail bondsman to get back the bail that he’s posted for you. If you don’t, the bondsman may track you to drag you into court, but if you appear as scheduled, you won’t need to worry about this “wild west” side of the bail business.
You should know that Florida bans “bounty hunters” and allows only the authorized bond agent to track and detain someone who has skipped bail. Still, if a bondsman posts bail on your behalf, you are accountable to that bondsman for as long as your case is pending.
In recent years, cash bail has been controversial. Legal activists claim that the system disproportionately discriminates against minorities and against those who are least able to pay. Several states, in fact, have abolished for-profit bail, but the state of Florida has not.
WHAT DO JUDGES CONSIDER WHEN THEY SET BAIL AMOUNTS?
When a Florida judge sets a bail amount, these factors are taken into consideration:
- the details of the charge
- the chances that the defendant will flee and fail to appear
- the risk to the public
- the defendant’s previous convictions
- the defendant’s ties to the community
If your bail amount is high, you may have to provide the bondsman with security – your home, your vehicle, or another asset of value. If you “skip” bail, the bondsman may then place a lien on your home, car, or other asset.
When your case concludes, any security that you offered to the bondsman is returned, provided that you have covered the ten or fifteen percent fee.
Furthermore, if you disappear, a bail bondsman won’t be the only one looking for you. The judge will issue an arrest warrant, and your bond will be in default.
WHAT IS SELF-ARREST?
If there’s a warrant for your arrest, “self-arrest” is the most convenient way to deal with the warrant, post bond, and avoid jail.
If you know or believe that there’s a warrant for your arrest, you or your attorney can speak to a bondsman who will confirm the warrant and post your bond. The bondsman will accompany you to the jail, your bond will be posted, and you’ll be fingerprinted, photographed, and released.
Self-arrest lets you avoid jail and prevents the embarrassment of being arrested at work or in front of your family.
Here’s how bail works if you’re arrested in Florida and you don’t take advantage of the self-arrest option. A relative or friend can go to a bondsman’s office and provide your name and other details. The bondsman will look up the arrest details and prepare the necessary paperwork.
Your bond will then be posted, and you’ll be released. From the time someone first speaks to a bondsman, it may take five or six hours – and sometimes longer – for you to be released, depending on how busy the bondsman and the jail are at that time.
However, if you were arrested for driving under the influence (DUI), you may be detained until your blood alcohol content level has dropped below the 0.08 percent legal limit.
ABOUT YOUR RIGHT TO LEGAL COUNSEL
Bail bondsmen aren’t supposed to recommend attorneys, but it happens. However, a bondsman may recommend a lawyer because of a reciprocal business arrangement, so you should not choose a lawyer on the basis of that recommendation.
Tampa defense attorney Patrick B. Courtney has more than 24 years of experience as a lawyer. He knows how the bail system works, how to protect a defendant’s rights, and how to bring a criminal case to its best possible conclusion.
Pat Courtney represents defendants accused of crimes in Polk, Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Sarasota, and Manatee counties. Learn more by calling his offices at (813) 967-2000 or by using the online contact form on this website.