Pretrial Release in Florida
In most cases, after a person is arrested and charged with a crime or ordinance violation, that person, the defendant, is entitled to pretrial release on reasonable conditions. The court makes the determination regarding the defendant’s pretrial release, also referred to here as bail. The purpose of bail to protect the community from unreasonable danger and to make sure the defendant returns to court for required appearances, including trial.
To determine bail, the court considers a number of factors including:
● the nature of the crime
● the amount of evidence
● community ties – family ties, length of residence, employment history, financial resources, and mental condition
● past and present criminal history, including any record of convictions, previous flights to avoid prosecution, or past failure to appear at court proceedings
● whether the person poses a danger to the community
● the sources of funds to be used to post bail
Of note, there is a presumption in favor of the defendant’s release on non-monetary conditions, unless the defendant is charged with a “dangerous crime” as defined by the Florida Statutes. Therefore, the court may release the defendant on his or her own recognizance, without any required monetary payment, but will impose other conditions of release. When the court does require the defendant to pay an amount of money before his or her release from jail, the defendant may secure his release by way of a cash bond or surety bond. A cash bond is the full amount of the monetary condition of bail paid in cash to the court. A cash bond is paid by the defendant or another person, such as a family member, on behalf of the defendant. If the defendant is not able to post a cash bond, he or she may enter an agreement with a bail bondsman for a surety bond. Here, the bail bondsman will post a bond with the court on behalf of the defendant. Generally, to post a bond, the bail bondsman requires the defendant to pay a non-refundable fee (e.g. 10% of the monetary condition of bail’s full amount) and provide collateral, such as jewelry, cash, real property, for the value of the bond.
Monetary conditions aside, the court will impose other conditions for release. In all cases, the court will require the defendant to appear at mandatory court hearings and refrain from any further criminal activities. Other possible conditions may include electronic monitoring, restrictions on travel, confinement to a certain residence, no consumption of alcohol or drugs, prohibiting contract with the victims of the crime, or participation in pretrial intervention programs.
It is very important that the defendant understands the conditions of his or her release from jail. Willful violations of any of the conditions of his or her release may result in forfeiture of the bond money, additional criminal charges, or a return to jail prior to trial. For example, if the defendant fails to appear at a mandatory court hearing, the bond securing the release will be forfeited and a separate criminal charge may be imposed. Additionally, if the court finds probable cause that the defendant committed a new crime while on release, the court will likely order the defendant’s return to jail.