How Does the Bail Bond Process Work?
Should you, a friend or a relative be placed under arrest and jailed, bail is typically imposed according to a standard schedule for certain crimes. Under Florida law, you must appear before a judge or magistrate within 24-hours who will in most cases either review and confirm the bail amount if set, set no bail if you committed a non-bondable offense such as homicide or a crime of domestic violence, or release you on your own recognizance (ROR) and without bail.
After you are taken to a jail or detention center, you are allowed to contact an attorney. Your lawyer may be able to arrange for a bond to be set so you can be released before you make a court appearance. In court, your attorney can argue that your bond be lowered or that you be released ROR.
In other cases if you become aware that a warrant has been issued for your arrest, you can make arrangements with your attorney and a bail bonding company to have an appearance bond posted so you can be released after booking.
If you are arrested for most misdemeanor offenses, there will be a standard bond amount associated with that offense. If you are arrested for a D.U.I., it will be in your best interest to have a friend or family member bond you out prior to seeing a judge. This will save you the inconvenience of having onerous, and often impossible, pre-trial conditions being place upon you while your case is pending.
What is a Bail Bond?
A bail bond is a method of insuring the defendant’s appearance for all court appointments. Defendants, in effect, pay for their release. It is a contractual arrangement among the state, the bail bondsman or agent and the suspect or principal. If the defendant fails to appear in court, the agent must either pay to the court the entire amount of the bond or find and arrest the defendant before forfeiture.
Most bail is in the form of a bond issued by a bail bond company for which the defendant pays 10% of the bail amount if $1001 or more. Federal bonds are 15% of the amount. If the defendant willfully fails to appear, the amount of the bond is forfeited to the court unless the bail bond company can locate the defendant and make an arrest. The bond is cancelled after a final disposition and no more court appearances are required.
Factors in Determining Bail
When appearing in court, the judge will have standard bail amounts for certain crimes but the amounts can change depending certain factors:
- The nature and severity of the offense
- The suspect’s criminal history
- If anyone in the community is at risk or in danger of undue harm from the suspect
- Is the suspect employed
- Is there a flight risk
- Has the suspect missed a court date in the past
If the court is concerned about any of these factors, then your bail may be increased. Retaining an attorney shortly after arrest, or even before if a warrant has been issued, can be instrumental in whether bail will be imposed and, if so, its amount. Your attorney can also request a bail hearing to reduce it or that you be released ROR or without bail should there be factors favorable to you that can be argued in your defense. If you are turning yourself in pursuant to a warrant, your attorney can help the process move more quickly and have the bond in place before booking.
Types of Bonds
There are different types of bonds that a defendant can obtain to ensure release from custody:
This is the most prevalent type of bond and is favored by the court as it guarantees that the bail agent will undertake to locate and arrest the defendant if no appearance is made. In this case, the bond is collateralized with a promissory note and/or an indemnity agreement that is generally signed by a third party. The bail agent is held harmless and does not suffer a financial loss if the bond has to be forfeited and the asset is seized.
Simply put, someone delivers the full amount of the bail in cash to the jail where the defendant is being held. The funds are kept by the court and returned to the defendant when the case is resolved provided the defendant makes all the court appearances. Collateral may be a mortgage, cash or credit card. Cash is deposited in an escrow account and is returned to the depositor after final disposition unless it is forfeited for non-appearance. This may be used if the suspect is not permitted to use assets to post a bail.
This is not commonly used and can take several weeks to finalize. Property bonds are used to record a court lien on the property that can be seized and sold by the court if the defendant fails to make a court appearance.
ELMO is an electronic monitoring system where the defendant is required to wear a device, generally on the ankle, and is a condition the court may impose along with bail. It monitors the defendant’s location and restricts defendants to their home with some limited access to the outside if permitted. Law enforcement usually monitors the device.
If bail is granted, the court may impose conditions on the defendant such as no contact with a victim or to stay within the jurisdiction while the criminal case proceeds.
The bail agent can also impose certain conditions on the defendant since the agency will not want to expend resources to track down, arrest and turn the defendant over to authorities if a court appearance is missed or it will be required to pay the bail amount, usually in the thousands of dollars. Usually the bond agent will want the defendants to communicate with the agency regarding their activities. A person released on bail should not leave the jurisdiction without asking an attorney or bail agent if it is prohibited as a condition of bail. If the bail agent feels that the defendant is not adhering to conditions or may pose a flight risk, the agent can revoke the bond.
The failure of the defendant to appear in court as scheduled will result in an arrest warrant being issued and notice sent to the bail bond agent who has 60-days to locate the defendant and surrender the individual to authorities. If the defendant is not found, the bond is forfeited and the agent will have to pay the bond amount. There are many reasons why a defendant may not have appeared including sickness, injury or mental illness. Having an attorney at this stage who can offer mitigating circumstances to the court may result in the warrant being recalled or any fines reduced. If not, and the court deems the defendant a flight risk, then the individual will remain in custody until disposition.