Bond amounts are set by the judge, although they are somewhat standard. For misdemeanors, bond amounts can range from $500 for second-degree misdemeanors such as reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident (LSA), all the way up to $1,000 or $1,500 for battery and DUI.
First-time offenders charged with misdemeanors may not have to post monetary bonds. If the police officer issues a PTA (promise to appear), there is no bond. The actual PTA slip serves as your court notice. If you fail to appear on the date you are given, the judge will issue a bench warrant and you may be arrested.
Even if you are physically arrested, a judge may issue an ROR (release on recognizance) or send you to pre-trial services where you will not have to post a monetary bond.
Felonies are a bit different. When charged with a felony, you will be physically arrested. Bond amounts can range from $5,000 all the way up to over a million dollars. You can be ROR'd or sent to pre-trial services, however, if you have significant ties to the community, no previous criminal record, and your charge is a non-violent offense.
Remember, there are felonies that are non-bondable. These crimes include burglary with an assault or battery, armed burglary with a firearm, armed trafficking, and armed robbery with a firearm. Of course, murder is a non-bondable offense as well.
Now, if your bond is high, how can you get it reduced?
A criminal defense attorney can always file a motion to reduce bond. This motion asks the court to reconsider the relevant factors in determining whether somebody is a flight risk or danger to the community. The main purpose of a bond is to ensure the accused's appearance in court. So if the accused person has ties to the community, the legislature's rationale is that that person is less likely to flee the jurisdiction.
Ties to the community may include family members that live nearby, a home that the accused owns, or a local job where the accused has worked for a significant period of time.
Also, the court must assess whether the accused is a danger to the community. Arguably, an accused person with a violent criminal past is a greater danger to the community than somebody with no prior criminal history. However, the judge will look to the alleged facts of the case. A retail theft is a less severe crime than an attempted murder. The nature of the charge will impact the judge's decision to lower the bond.
If enhanced under Florida's "career criminal" statutes, the State has the right to ask the judge to increase the bond. This is because under these statutes, an accused person faces greater prison time or even mandatory prison time than a accused person without an enhancement. Enhancements, which are announced in court at the time or arraignment, include Habitual Offender (HO), Habitual Violent Offender (HVO), Violent Career Criminal (GORT), 3-Time Violent Felony Offender, and Prison Releasee Reoffender (PRRP).
The request to increase the bond for an enhanced defendant is almost always made by the prosecutor at arraignment. The prosecutor argues that with the enhancement (which was not announced at the initial bond hearing) changes the terms of the bond, since the defendant now faces more prison time than originally presumed. The State argues that this change in circumstances makes them a greater flight risk. Some judges will grant these motions and turn $5,000 bonds into $50,000 bonds. Other judges will not grant these motions, but will ask the defense attorney to contact the bondsman. If the bondsman agrees to stay on the bond, the judge will not grant the motion to increase.
Motions to reduce bond are often filed in trafficking cases as well. This is because trafficking cases have mandatory minimum sentences, which may provoke flight in an accused person scared of going to prison.
Trafficking offenses, such as trafficking in oxycodone (OxyContin), trafficking in alprazolam (Xanax), trafficking in marijuana, trafficking in methamphetamine, and trafficking in cocaine all have high bonds with requirements that the person paying the bond premium present proof to the court that the money is coming from a "clean" source. In other words, this person must present an affidavit showing that this money was not earned through drug trafficking.
Reducing a bond in a trafficking case is easier when it is the defendant's first time in trouble. Showing that the accused has ties to the community, is presently working or in school, and has a strong family support system may give the court the persuasion it needs to reduce the bond. This reduction can make the bond affordable.
Of course, Arthur Hearings are a good way to get the court to issue a bond for a non-bondable offense. Click on the link above to learn more about Arthur Hearings.
I have a criminal defense practice in Miami-Dade and Broward. I represent clients both in and out of custody. I know how important it is for a client to be out of jail. Life doesn't stop just because you get arrested. You have to work and take care of your family. Staying in jail will almost always cause you to lose your job. Additionally, being charged with a serious crime is mentally taxing as it is. Now imagine having to endure the stress of the justice system alone, behind bars.
Call me today to discuss matters pertaining to bonds, or anything related to criminal law.