Florida’s Bail and Pre-Trail Release Process
In Florida, most criminal defendants or those accused of a crime have a right to bail or pre-trial release as matter of law. See Florida General Statute 893. Those accused of crimes in Florida that do not have a right to bail or pre-trial release are those individuals facing crimes punishable by death or life imprisonment or those defendants that the state seeks to file a motion for pretrial detention. Overall, the vast majority of criminal defendants in Florida are released on bail or pre-trial release after being arrested. The conditions of the pretrial release or bail can differ greatly from accused to accused. The First Appearance Judge is the one who sets the conditions of bail or pretrial release for those facing criminal charges in Florida.
The first purpose of bail or pre-trial release in Florida is to ensure that the accused will appear in all of their court proceedings. The second purpose of bail in Florida is to protect the community from further harms and or crimes by the defendant while he or she is out on bail or pretrial release. The court will looked at several factors when determining whether to release a defendant on bail or other conditions of pretrial release, and what that bail or those conditions may be, will be consider by the following.
The nature and circumstances of the offense charged. This means the court will look at the nature and body of the crime and weigh any mitigating or aggravating factors. This area can be viewed as to whether or not the crime was committed in a heinous or non-heinous way. Was the crime motivated by greed or by necessity? The next area of determination is the weight of the evidence.
The weight of evidence against the accused will be a factor as to what conditions the court will impose on a defendant during his or her bail hearing. Factors that the court will look into when judging the weight of the evidence against the accused are whether: the accused confessed to the crime, the freshness or staleness of the arrest, the presences of physical evidence like DNA or fingerprints, the value or motivate of a testifying witness or victim and the statements or confession of co-conspirators.
The defendant’s family ties to the community. The judge will consider how long the defendant has resided in the community. The length of time the defendant has actually lived in his or her current residency or place of abode. The employment history and job skills of the accused and whether or not the defendant has a job to return back to if released. The defendant’s finical resources and their ability to support themselves, is also a determination that the judge can make when determining the conditions of bail. The mental condition of the accused is also considered by the judge, including the defendant’s history of any mental illness, drug and or alcohol abuse or suicide in a bail determination.
The defendant’s past and present conduct, as to the defendant’s prior criminal record and court appearances, is an area of concern for a judge in setting bail. If it is the defendant’s first offense, then this factor is given weight by the court, as is a defendant who has many prior arrest or failures to appear for scheduled court appearances.
The nature and probability of danger which the accused pose to the community upon his or her release is a consideration of the judge. If the crime alleges to have a victim the relationship between the accused and the victim is a consideration for the judge. The age, vulnerability, mental or physical handicaps of the alleged victim are also considerations of a judge in victim crimes. The nature of the alleged crime and whether the defendant possesses traits to commit the crime upon his or her release falls within the probability of danger test.
If released on bail the source of funds used to post bail or procure an appearance bond. This is what is termed the Nebbia hearing. The Judge is determining whether or not the funds, collateral or bond premium are being paid by funds linked to criminal activity or illegal funding. , particularly whether the proffered funds, real property, property, or any proposed collateral or bond premium may be linked to or derived from the crime alleged to have been committed or from any other criminal or illicit activities. The burden rest on the defendant or family member posting the bail funds to prove to the court that the bond or collateral are derived from a legal and legitimate source.
Whether the defendant is already on release pending resolution of another criminal proceeding or on probation, parole, or other release pending completion of a sentence. The judge will have the assistance of the prosecutor to provide him or her with the defendant’s prior criminal record at the First Appearance and this will show the current status of the accused. If the accused is out on bond, on probation or serving a sentence for another crime, the judge will heavily weigh those factors.
The street value of any drug or controlled substance connected to or involved in the criminal charge. Florida legislatures have made it the policy of this State that drug crimes have a serious effect on Florida’s social wellbeing and that those involved in the drug trade are at a higher risk of flight and judge’s considering bail must consider this policy set by the legislatures. The Legislatures have said that the courts should balance the value of the street drugs to the value of the bail being set.
During First Appearance, the judge may also take into consideration the fact that the defendant falls under, Chapter 874 or is a member of a street gang, and the crime was committed in the furtherance of the enterprise. Another tenant under this area is if the defendant is considered a sexual offender or sexual predator then the judge may consider this factor before setting bail.
Finally, the judge has a catchall provision that allows them to consider any relevant factors in determining a defendant’s pretrial release. There are too many reasons to list here but the age of the defendant, the unsophisticated nature of the offense or of the defendant, the defendant’s standing in the community, and many other social factors may be considered when determining bail or pretrial release.
If you or a loved one has been freshly arrested and are awaiting your first court appearance, contact a highly skilled criminal defense lawyer who can help get you released. Hiring an experienced criminal lawyer for the accused First Appearance can pay off with more than just being released from jail but also with a lower monetary bond saving you money, less restrictions which provide more liberty, drug, alcohol or mental health treatment if needed and to invoke the accused rights to silence. West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney Andrew D. Stine has been attending first appearances since 2001 for those accused of crimes. For over a decade Palm Beach Criminal Lawyer, Andrew D. Stine, has appeared in hundreds of First Appearances to meet and help those accused of criminal activity and to assure their release from jail. Hire Stine or Do the Time.