Cash bail has long been integrated into the Florida criminal justice system as a means of assuring those released from jail post-arrest/pre-trial show up to court, and that risk to the community is minimized.
But criminal justice reform advocates, like those at the ACLU, are calling for an end to the cash bail system, saying it results in disparate outcomes on the basis of income.
Criminal defendants in Florida may be jailed for days, weeks or even months pending trial, and public defenders say many are strong-armed into accepting plea deals on lesser charges – even when they were innocent – just to secure their release from jail.
Who Gets Bail in Florida Criminal Cases?
Bail is offered in most every case, except for those involving capital offenses, certain violent crimes, violation of protective orders, probation or parole and those involving defendants with a history of prior offenses/skipping bail.
Florida law and procedure on bail bonds for criminal defendants is outlined in Chapter 903 of Florida Statutes. As noted in F.S. 903.046, notes the factors judges consider when determining whether to set bail and at what amount include:
- The nature and circumstances of alleged offenses;
- The weight of the evidence against defendant;
- Defendant’s family ties, how long he/she has lived in the community, history of employment, economic resources and mental health condition;
- Past and present conduct of defendant, including prior convictions or attempts to evade prosecution in other cases;
- Nature & likelihood defendant will pose a threat to community if released;
- Source of bond payment (i.e., whether it’s a real property contingency arrangement or if there is any chance the money was derived from illicit activities).
Our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys know roughly two-thirds of those incarcerated in the U.S. at any given time are awaiting trial, and of those, 90 percent are there because they can’t afford to post bond. Meanwhile, those with more means bond out on the exact same crimes.
Trend of Higher Bonds Started During Tough-on-Crime Era
Florida was not alone in its push for higher bond amounts during the ill-fated “tough-on-crime” era of state and federal policy-making. According to an analysis by the journal Americas Quarterly, the U.S. has the largest pretrial detention population in the world, and of those detainees, 20 percent are ultimately acquitted or have their case dismissed.
Several states, such as New Jersey, have reformed their pretrial procedures in recent years to address overcrowding in jails, reduce costs and correct this injustice, by allowing for citations in lieu of arrests for non-violent criminal offenses (so fewer people even need to post bond in the first place). In California, state lawmakers did away with cash bail entirely, with pre-trial incarceration depending on severity of offense, rather than payment of fees.
Unfortunately, Florida is not yet among them, though some jurisdictions have made moves in this direction for certain drug crimes, namely those involving marijuana.
Many just accept at this point that persons accused of crimes will most likely compelled to pay a substantial sum for release while a criminal case is pending. Defendants can never regain the time they lost in pretrial detention while they were still “presumed innocent.”
Impact of No Bond Pre-Trial Detention
When a person is detained before a criminal trial without bond, they are likely to sustain at least some degree of wage loss and often end up losing their jobs. This harms not only the defendant, but has potential to result in collateral damage to their dependents and society at large.
Detention without bond pending trial can also hinder or damage key personal and professional relationships and deprive defendants of the opportunity to build a history of complying with conditions of release – all of which the judge is likely to consider at sentencing if convicted.
A defendant jailed with no bond pending trial also can’t participate much if at all in helping prepare for their own defense. As the American Quarterly analysis revealed, pretrial detention increases the likelihood a person is going to be convicted as well as the odds he or she will go to prison.
Should I Hire a Defense Lawyer for a Bond Hearing?
Technically speaking, you are not required to hire a Fort Lauderdale defense attorney to represent you at a bond hearing. It’s often a good idea, though, because an attorney is more likely to have success in pressing for reduced bail or even in having excessive charges dismissed sooner than later.
As noted by an associated editor for The Florida Bar, the Sunshine State has 32 counties with pretrial release programs that vary drastically one-to-the-next. Having a criminal defense lawyer on your side can be an invaluable resource through this process.
A public defense attorney will be appointed to represent a defendant at their bond hearing if the charges include any that could result in jail or prison time if convicted. There are many skilled public defenders in Broward County, but the problem is their caseloads are enormous. Hiring a private criminal defense attorney will ensure more attention to your case.
No criminal defense attorney can guarantee anyone a certain outcome, but it’s been proven that defendants represented by criminal defense lawyers at bail hearings tend to secure terms of release and their bond amounts are statistically lower, compared to those who don’t have the benefit of legal representation.
Call Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
In Florida, where reforms are slow to arrive, cash bail remains the law of the land, May 10, 2019, By Claire GoForth, Florida Bulldog
More Blog Entries:
Fort Lauderdale Defense Lawyer: Should You Talk to Police if Questioned?, May 16, 2019, Fort Lauderdale Bail Hearing Attorney Blog