A Broward County woman who has been charged in the heinous death of her three-year old stepson has had her bond reduced.
Originally, the accused had her bond set at $230,000 for charges including aggravated manslaughter, two counts of child neglect, and one count of obstructing a criminal investigation by providing false information to law enforcement regarding a missing child.
The state opted not to file one of the two child neglect charges, bringing the bond amount down to $210,000.
Traditionally, a surety agent (bail bondsman) will post the full amount in exchange for a fee equalling 10% of the bond amount. So a $210,000 bond would require $21,000 paid in cash or credit to the bondsman.
The accused’s attorney argued that the difference between a $230,000 bond and a $210,000 bond was negligible - that the woman’s dire financial situation rendered her unable to pay premiums for either bond amounts.
The purpose of a bond is to ensure the defendant’s presence in court. However, Florida law permits a judge to consider things such as the gravity of the offense and whether the defendant poses a danger to the community.
In my experience, it is possible to seek a bond reduction for many types of charges. However, the more serious, more violent offenses tend to carry higher bonds by their nature.
If a first appearance judge sets a bond too high, a criminal defense attorney may file a motion with the trial court judge to reconsider the bond amount. Recently, I was able to get a $70,000 bond lowered to $15,000.
Bond, above all else, is not a punishment. You cannot be punished with an unusually high bond just because the judge doesn’t like what you are accused of. Courts have held that an unreasonably high bond is effectually no bond at all.
Recently, Broward County announced a change to its bond schedule. Now a large number of “convenience bonds,” or predetermined bond amounts that allow an arrested person to bond out before first appearance, will no longer be in place, requiring more and more offenders to appear before a bond judge. This could result in higher bonds because first appearance judges will have access to defendants’ priors as well as arrest reports. Knowing particular facts about a case or seeing that an accused has a lengthy arrest record may prompt a judge to impose a higher bond than one predetermined for the charge alone.
The point is, the bond set by the first appearance judge doesn’t have to be the bond that remains in place during the pendency of your case. You (or your family if you are in custody) should reach out to a criminal lawyer to see about having your bond reduced.
Not all criminal charges carry bonds. Remember - all felonies punishable by life in the State of Florida are considered non-bondable. A specialized bond hearing known as an Arthur Hearing must be scheduled in order to (possibly) secure a bond in an otherwise non-bondable case.
Eric Matheny is a Miami and Broward criminal attorney.