How does it work?
A person who is arrested for a crime must be brought before a magistrates Judge within 48 hours of arrest. The purpose of this hearing is to determine whether probable cause (“pc”) exist for the arrest. If the Judge finds PC the judge will then determine the bail/bond (“bond”) amount that the arrestee must “post” (pay) in order to be released from jail.
“The purpose of a bail determination in criminal proceedings is to ensure the appearance of the criminal defendant at subsequent proceedings and to protect the community against the unreasonable danger from the criminal defendant.” Fla. R. Crim. P. 903.046(1).
Some offenses are given a convenience bond when an individual is arrested. The convenience bond is a predetermined amount that is assigned to specific charges. The purpose of a convenience bond is to balance the space limitations in county jail against the public interest and need to protect the community. This means that when an arrestee is booked into jail, depending on the allegations, they will be assigned a predetermined bond amount. If the arrestee is able to post that bond amount they will be released from custody before they are brought before a magistrate judge. For this reason, some individuals may never appear before a magistrates judge.
Anyone can post the bond on behalf of the arrestee. Fla. R. Crim. P. 903.16. Another option will be to acquire the money through a bails bondman/ bail bonds company. The bail bondsman acts as an insurance agent in that they will post the bond on the arrestee’s behalf in exchange for some type of collateral. The bails bondman essentially tells the court that they are securing the arrestees presence in court. Typically, with a bails bondman on the case, an arrestee is only required to post 10% of the bond amount. If the bond amount is $1,000.00, the arrestee is only required to post $100 to secure their release from custody.
If an arrestee is not given a convenience bond or is unable to post the convenience bond given, they will next be brought before the magistrate judge. The Judge will consider a number of factors when determining what an individuals bond amount should be. Those factors can include the allegations against the arrestee, how long he/she has resided in the community, prior convictions, prior arrest or whether the accused has missed court before. Fla. R. Crim P. 903.046(2) .
It is not uncommon for the Judge to ask the Prosecutor to recommend a bond amount. This may seem unfair. It may seem that the judge is only considering the prosecutors input but the judge is allowed to do so. The arrestee will be entitled to a bond in most cases. The Judge could release the arrestee on his /her word that that they will appear at every court hearing (released on his/her own recognizance), a monetary bond may be given, or the arrestee could be released on either but may be required to wear an ankle monitor and be monitored by pretrial services.
If the arrestee is given a monetary amount he/she will be required to pay that amount before they can be released. As with convenience bonds, anyone can post the bond on the arrestee’s behalf or the arrestee can seek the services of a bails bondman. In some situations the bond amount may be disproportionately more than the arrestee can afford. If this is the case, the Defense attorney should make an argument on the arrestee’s behalf that the bond amount would be tantamount to having no bond. The attorney should explain to the Judge that the accused would not be able to afford the bond amount and therefore will have to remain in jail.
An arrestee is not entitled to a bond at magistrate’s court in all cases. Some cases require that the arrestee be held “no bond” until the case can be heard by the assigned judge at a later date. The arrestee can remain in custody even though the law presumes that they are innocent and must be proven guilty by the prosecution. An arrestee could even remain in custody for as long as it takes for the case to be resolved.
Even after all of this, the case will not be over, more than likely the case has not even begun. It is usually still an unfiled case pending review by the prosecutor. After the Police arrest an individual, the case is then forwarded to the State Attorney’s Office for review. A prosecutor reviews the allegations in the report to determine if the accusations fit the statutory requirement to file charges. In the filing stage the prosecutor can decide to file the charges as presented, change the charges (either to a less or more serious offense), or to out right drop the charges.
If you are accused of a crime or arrested for a criminal offense you should consult with a criminal attorney. Many factors contribute to the prosecutor’s decision and it is very likely that the prosecutor will be unaware of the other side of the story. This is where having legal representation is not only important but also beneficial. An attorney will be able to communicate with the prosecutor on behalf of the arrestee. A prosecutor is prohibited from communicating with an unrepresented individual. A criminal attorney can present the prosecution with additional facts, an arrestees account of the facts and make argument to the prosecutor as to why certain charges should not be filed.