If someone is placed under arrest and charged with a crime in Florida, before that person can be released from jail, some type of bail bond may have to be paid. Anyone charged with a crime in the Tampa Bay area will also need to contact a Tampa criminal defense attorney at once.
The amount of a bail bond depends on a number of factors, including the details of the criminal charge. And for some crimes, no bail is available, and defendants remain in custody until their cases are resolved.
Even if you’re not guilty of a crime, you may have to pay a bail bond to be released. Exactly what is a bail bond, and how are bail amounts determined in Florida? Can a defense attorney have the amount of your bail bond reduced or have you released on your own recognizance?
If you continue reading this brief discussion of bail bonds in Florida, these questions will be answered, and you’ll learn more about the rights of defendants who are accused of crimes in this state.
What is Bail? What is a Bail Bond?
Bail is the amount of money that a judge sets and requires to ensure that a defendant returns for court and trial dates. When bail is paid, the defendant is released. The term “bail” can also refer to the actual payment made by the defendant or the defendant’s bail bondsman.
A “bail bond” is the assurance a bail bondsman provides to the court – the entire bail amount – should the defendant fail to return to court. A bail bondsman requires a fee – money or property – before assuring the court that the defendant will appear or that the full bail amount will be paid.
For These Crimes, No Bail Is Available
In Florida, particular crimes are “non-bondable” offenses, meaning that the defendant will probably remain in custody until the case is concluded. Certain sex crimes, murder, and armed burglary, for example, are non-bondable charges.
If you are charged with a non-bondable crime, a Tampa bail attorney can file a bond motion to argue that bail should be granted and that you should be released while waiting for your case to go to trial or to be otherwise resolved.
In Florida, criminal defense attorneys and bail bondsmen often cooperate to get defendants released from jail and to ensure that defendants make their required court appearances.
How Do Judges Decide the Amount of Someone’s Bail?
Generally speaking, bondable criminal charges in Florida have preset bail amounts that are based on the seriousness of the charge. Nevertheless, judges retain the discretion to reduce or increase preset bail amounts depending on the particular facts and circumstances in a case, including:
- a defendant’s financial situation, current job, and employment history
- a defendant’s family, relatives, and ties to the community
- the nature and extent of a defendant’s criminal record
What Happens at Your First Court Appearance?
In Florida, if you are arrested, a bond amount may be set by a judge on the arrest warrant.
If you are arrested without a warrant, you will be taken to a hearing where a judge will either:
- set a bail amount
- release you on your own recognizance
- deny bail and hold you in custody
When Your Bail Is Set, What Are Your Options?
When a judge sets your bail amount, you may pay the bail amount in cash, hire a bondsman to pay the bail amount for a non-refundable fee that is, by law, ten percent of the bail figure, or ask your defense attorney to request a bond reduction hearing.
Paying in cash can make sense when your bail is low, because if you make all of your court appearances, the cash is returned to you at the end of the legal process (or applied to your fine if you are convicted and a fine is part of your sentence).
In most cases, however, the judge will set a bail amount that a defendant will not be able to pay out-of-pocket. You can hire a bail bondsman to pay the full amount of the bail in return for a fee amounting to ten percent of the bail figure.
When your case has been resolved, the bail money is then returned to the bondsman, assuming that you appeared in court as required.
Can Your Bail Amount Be Reduced?
But if your bail is set too high, your attorney can ask the court to reduce it or to release you on your own recognizance. Your attorney will need to show that your ties to the community and the details of the case make it unlikely that you would fail to appear as scheduled in court.
If you’ve been charged with a crime anywhere in the Tampa Bay area, retaining a Tampa criminal defense attorney prior to your first court appearance is imperative.
How Are Domestic Violence Charges Handled?
Under Florida law, if you are charged with a crime of domestic violence, you will be held in jail until your first court appearance, and you cannot bond out earlier simply by paying the preset bail amount.
At your first court appearance for a domestic violence charge, a judge will set a bail amount and require other conditions for your release. These conditions are imposed to protect alleged domestic violence victims, and any violation may result in the revocation of your release.
Defendants who are granted a conditional release are typically ordered to avoid committing any new crime and to avoid contact with any alleged victim. Some defendants are also ordered to refrain from alcohol and/or drug use.
The release conditions that are typically imposed on domestic violence defendants may prevent those defendants from returning to their homes or seeing their children, but the right criminal defense lawyer may be able to have the conditions of your release modified or eliminated.
What Should You Do If the Police Arrest You?
If you’re placed under arrest, exercise your rights, but do not resist the police in any way. At a traffic stop, you may be asked for your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. After you produce these documents, you’re not required to answer further questions.
If police officers try to question you, politely say something like, “I want to consult my lawyer before answering any questions.” Don’t sign anything or try to negotiate a plea deal on your own. Do not try to act as your own lawyer.
The right Tampa Bay defense attorney will fight for justice on your behalf at every stage of the legal process, starting with your first appearance in court, and that attorney will work aggressively and effectively to bring the case to its best possible outcome.