In any drug trafficking case, you can expect that the original bond is going to be set at a high amount. This is because the initial appearance judge will only have the arresting officer's affidavit (A-Form) on which to base his or her opinion. If the officer alleges that the accused was trafficking in any narcotic, chemical, or controlled substance, that bond judge will likely presume that the accused is involved in the trafficking of dangerous drugs and will set a six-figure bond. Bond amounts of $250,000 are not uncommon. That means that family members must come up with a $25,000 premium to pay a bondsman in order to get their loved one out of jail!
Bonds In Drug Trafficking Cases
Posted By Eric Matheny
Miami-Dade County and Broward County, the areas in which I practice criminal defense, have their fair share of drug trafficking crimes. Both are international port cities where large amounts of cocaine come through the Port of Miami and Port Everglades everyday. Also, homegrown drugs such as marijuana (South Florida has a high concentration of marijuana grow houses) and prescription "pill mills" (oxycodone, alprazolam, valium, and percocet) make for trafficking arrests.
In the State of Florida, drug trafficking is probably the most serious of all crimes, even above violent felonies. There are mandatory minimum sentences on every narcotics trafficking charge under Florida law. For marijuana and cocaine, the mandatory minimums start at 3 years in state prison. Prescriptions such as oxycodone (OxyContin) and alprazolam (Xanax), mandatory minimums typically start at 7 years.
The thing about prescription trafficking is that the trafficking weight is relatively low. Literally a handful of pills. For cocaine, the minimum trafficking weight is 28 grams, or nearly 1 ounce (as Tony Montana would say, "Thassa lotta coke!"). But for pills, just 4 grams is enough to subject you to the low-end of the prescription mandatory minimum sentences. At 28 grams and over, you are looking at 25 years in prison, and that's mandatory (day-for-day) time!
The reason for high trafficking bonds is (1) the mandatory minimum prison time may induce flight as people are naturally afraid of prison, and (2) the Florida Legislature has taken a firm position against taking drugs and suspected drug traffickers off the streets. For this reason, you may be charged with a violent felony such as strongarm robbery and you may be issued a $12,500 bond. But if you are found with a pill bottle full of OxyContin and you do not have a legitimate prescription, the bond amount could be set in the $100,000 - $250,000 range.
When clients are arrested for trafficking, I am usually contacted by family members within hours or their loved one's arrest. This is because they want to bond their loved one out of jail.
It's important to remember that the bond judge is not the same as the trial judge. The bond judge merely addresses the issue of bond. It's a 30-second hearing at best. If probable cause for the charge is found (the judge determines this by reading the officer's arrest affidavit), then bond is set and the case goes to the State Attorney's Office for pre-file.
If bond is set at a six-figure amount, there are remedies for reducing the bond. A criminal defense attorney can make argument to the bond judge, illustrating the client's lack of prior offenses, ties to the community, work history, or educational background. This demonstrates that the client is established in the community and is unlikely to flee. It's important to note that the main legislative intent behind a monetary bond is to ensure the defendant's presence in court. There are secondary concerns, such as safety of the community, but first and foremost, the court just wants to be satisfied that the accused is going to go to court when they are supposed to go.
If the bond judge will not reduce the bond, then the trial court judge may be able to do so. I regularly file motions to reduce bonds. Furthermore, a trial court judge may require a Nebbia satisfaction. That means that documents, such as bank records or affidavits, must be presented to the court to show where the bond money is coming from. That means that if the bond is reduced to $25,000, the friend or family member posting the bond premium ($2,500) must present evidence to the court showing that the money is not coming from a drug-related source. In other words, if the bond money is coming out of your savings account, typically the court will want a bank statement showing withdrawal of that money from the account, along with an affidavit explaining where the money came from. This is to ensure that drug trafficking bonds are not coming from the proceeds of drug trafficking.
If you would like to discuss trafficking cases in greater detail, please call my office.