When someone is arrested in Florida, a judge may grant the defendant conditions of a pretrial release, more commonly referred to as bail. Chapter 903 of the Florida Statutes governs the rules and definitions regarding bail and bonds. According to the statutes, bail refers to all forms of pretrial release using any monetary component as a promise to appear in court later. Here is what you should know about how bail works in Florida.
Types of Bail
- There are three types of bail in Florida:
- Recognizance release (also called signature release), where the defendant is released from jail with no bail set. The defendant is required to return to court on the scheduled date.
- Cash or surety bond (the most common), where the defendant or someone else pays the bail amount in cash or works with a bail bond agent.
- No bond, where the defendant cannot be released and must await trial in jail.
How Bail is Set
Bail is determined by several factors, including the seriousness of the crime and the circumstances surrounding the arrest. The weight of evidence against the defendant is also a critical factor. Bail amounts are preset based on the type of crime and the county where it was committed. Judges can use discretion when determining bail amounts based on the defendant’s likelihood to return to court and their previous criminal history. Bail amounts can range from $250 for criminal traffic violations to $150,000 for first-degree felonies.
Bail may be decreased by requesting a bail reduction hearing. At the hearing, a criminal defense attorney will speak on the defendant’s behalf regarding their history and community standing to prove they are unlikely to skip court dates. An attorney will also discuss current employment status, family commitments, and mental health standing to convince a judge to lower the bail amount to make being released from jail more affordable.
How to Make Bail
There are two ways to make bail. The most straightforward way is to pay the total bail amount in cash. Bail can be made by the defendant, a family member, a friend, or anyone else willing to post it. The second way is to use a bail bond issued by a licensed bond agent to post bail on your behalf. Bond agents charge non-refundable fees (10% of the total bail) to post the entire bail on behalf of the defendant. Bail money is returned to whoever posted it once the trial concludes and the defendant has made all requested court appearances. Bonds can be posted 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Conditions of Pretrial Release
Every pretrial release is made under the condition that the defendant will not participate in any criminal activity. The defendant must also follow all applicable court mandates, such as no-contact orders and injunctions. The most important condition of a pretrial release is to appear in court on every requested date until the case has concluded.
Failing to Appear in Court After Making Bail
Failing to appear in court after a pretrial release has serious consequences. A bench warrant would be issued, ordering that the defendant be returned to jail to await trial without the possibility of additional bail. Bond agents can locate and apprehend the defendant and bring them back to jail. The defendant would also be charged with the separate crime of Failure to Appear, adding an additional misdemeanor or felony charge to the defendant’s criminal history.
Criminal Defense Attorney Alison M. Lopes —Fighting for You
Alison M. Lopes is a criminal defense attorney serving Osceola County, Orlando, and Central Florida residents. If you or a loved one have been arrested, contact our office today to discuss your case. We will work with you from your first court appearance until the verdict is reached.