When you’re loved one has just been arrested in Fort Lauderdale, those words can make you feel as if you’ve just had the wind knocked out of you. Likely, you have lots of questions. But as our Fort Lauderdale defense lawyers typically advise, it’s best to not to ask for too many details over the phone while they’re still in jail, as they’re likely on a recorded line. The first order of business is figuring out how to bail them out as soon as possible.
What Exactly is Bail? Is it the Same as Bond?
The whole principle of bond is to assure that the defendant will return to court to answer for the allegations against them, rather than lose the money the court is holding in exchange. Note: The terms “bail” and “bond” tend to be used interchangeably. They’re similar, but bail is money given to the court, while bond is a loan the defendant or third party takes out to pay that bail.
Sometimes, defendants are given a summons – meaning they aren’t arrested or booked and do not need to pay any bail. Instead, they are released on their own recognizance and given a court date for which they are expected to appear for (or have a defense lawyer appear on their behalf). Other defendants may be booked, but then released on their own recognizance with a summons to appear in court. Others may be booked and then given an amount right away.
How Is Bail Amount Decided in Florida?
Each county in Florida has its own bond schedule. The bond schedule for the 17th Judicial Circuit in Broward County lists the following standard convenience bond schedule, depending on the type of offense:
- Second degree misdemeanor: $25
- First-degree misdemeanor: $100
- Third-degree felony: $1,000
- Second-degree felony: $3,500
- First-degree felony (non-life): $7,500
- First-degree felony (life): No bond
- Capital offense: No bond
The exact amount can vary depending on the specific charge, and if the alleged offenses were attempts or solicitations (in which case, bond amount may be lower) or if the crime is one of violence (in which case, bond may be higher). Some offenses, like domestic violence, require the court to hold a hearing before bond can be issued. If the offense for which the defendant is arrested involves a violation of a protection order, they may be denied bond altogether and be held until trial. If a defendant is charged with several offenses arising from the same incident, the scheduled convenience bond will be set at the amount for the most serious offense.
By law, defendants are entitled to a bail hearing within 48 hours of arrest. However, that does not mean they’re guaranteed to be granted bail or released at all.
The process and cost for bailing or bonding someone out of jail can depend on:
- The type of charge they are facing. Most offenses in Florida are bailable. However, they might not be immediately bailable, and some are going to cost more than others.
- Their criminal history. Those with previous criminal convictions on their permanent record will likely have to put up more money for pre-trial release – if they’re able to bond out at all. Previous failures to appear in court for other offenses can also weigh heavily on the court’s decision.
- Their location. The process for bailing someone out in Florida is likely to be different than in other states. If you aren’t local, it’s a good idea to consult with a local criminal defense lawyer who can help walk you through the process while also protecting your loved one’s rights.
- The defendant’s level of flight risk. This considers not only the crime of which they are accused, but the resources to which they have access, their personal ties and standing in the community, employment, etc.
Crimes that are more serious and require a higher amount of bail may require the need to contract with a bail bonds company who can put up the entire amount while the defendant (or their loved one) pays a percentage of it – usually 10 percent. That 10 percent is not a deposit that is available for return. That is a fee for the service of posting the entire amount. That money will not be returned, no matter the case outcome.
Limits and Conditions of Bail
As noted before, each county has its own bail schedule. That’s why a second-degree misdemeanor in Broward County may have a different bail than the same offense in Palm Beach County.
While there are circumstances under which the dollar amount of bail can be increased, judges in Florida are not allowed to arbitrarily order exorbitantly high bail amounts.
Where bail is granted, the court may impose a number of conditions on the person being released. As outlined in F.S. 903.047, these generally include things like:
- Refraining from engaging in criminal activity of any kind.
- Avoiding any contact with the victim – particularly if there is a no-contact order. (Violations of no contact orders will quickly land a person back behind bars, and can also be construed as witness tampering.)
- Use of a GPS monitor.
- Submissions to random drug or alcohol screening.
- Limits on driving or travel.
Having an experienced criminal defense lawyer advocating on your loved one’s behalf during that first hearing can improve the odds for less restrictive pretrial release conditions and lower bond amounts.
What’s the Exact Process for Bonding Someone Out in Broward County?
If your loved one is in custody of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, you can obtain information about their status by conducting an Arrest Search on the BSO website, by calling (954) 831-5900 or by visiting the 24-7 information window at BSO’s Main Jail facility.
Cash bonds can be paid at the information window, with no service fees for in-person payments. Money can also be wired via Western Union (make sure to complete the Blue Quick Collect Send Form with the arrest or CIS number and the inmate’s first and last name). Service fees apply for Western Union wire payments. Payments can also be made with a credit card or debit card at www.GovPayNow.com or by phone at 1-877-EZBAIL5. Service fees apply to those methods of payment as well.
Surety bonds can be posted through a licensed surety bond agent (also known as a bondsman). These companies can provide the full amount in exchange for a fee.
Cash bonds are refundable when the case is completed and/or within 36 months – whichever comes first. The process of receiving a bond refund is spelled out in F.S. 903.31.
Note: If you post someone’s bail/bond and they do not appear in court when they are supposed to, you could be on the hook for the entire amount.
The sheriff’s office has an Inmate Handbook that can provide some useful information as well.
Whether your loved one is able to post bail and be released by the Broward Sheriff’s Office immediately or they must wait a while, an experienced criminal defense attorney can protect their rights, formulate defense strategies, and advocate for the best case outcomes – both short-term and long-term.
Call Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
More Blog Entries:
Why Should I Hire a Broward Defense Lawyer for a Misdemeanor?, Nov. 30, 2022, Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog