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Pretrial Release In Florida

Incarceration before trial is a significant legal and personal hardship. Defendants who are in jail can only consult with their attorneys during limited times and under controlled conditions. Furthermore, they cannot participate in their own defense in any meaningful way. In sum, according to a recent study, defendants who are in jail before their trials are more likely to be convicted and more likely to receive long prison sentences. Additionally, the personal costs of being away from jobs, businesses, family, and friends are sometimes more devastating than the criminal offense itself.

Because of these factors, and also because of concerns that the bail system is unfair to poor people, many states have altered their pretrial release systems. But in Florida, the procedure for getting out of jail today is almost the same as it was twenty or thirty years ago.

Factors in Setting Bail

Although the Eighth Amendment is the guiding principle for pretrial detention law, it offers very little guidance on the subject. Over the years, the United States Supreme Court and other lower courts have fleshed out the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on excessive bail and established a number of factors to consider. Some of them include:

  • Roots in the Community: Defendants with local jobs, families, and other ties are typically more likely to appear for their trial dates than individuals without these bonds.
  • Severity of Offense: Similarly, a defendant charged with a misdemeanor is considered more likely to remain in the jurisdiction than someone charged with a felony. The amount of evidence against the defendant sometimes also comes into play here.
  • Risk to Community: The nature of the charges (such as DUI or sexual abuse), as well as any threats that the defendant made against witnesses, are relevant here.

The common denominator in all pretrial release factors is that bail is only a means of securing the defendant’s appearance at trial and not a means of punishment.

Procedures Involved

Initially, the arresting officer normally sets bail in most jurisdictions. Typically, there is no discretion on the officer’s behalf, because peace officers cannot perform judicial functions, like setting bail amount. Most local counties basically have a pre-determined bond schedule for different types of offenses, such as $1,000 for a misdemeanor, $3,000 for a low-level felony and $10,000 for a serious felony.

If the defendant is in jail overnight, a magistrate judge reviews the case and sets bail. Many times, the amount is unchanged, because the pre-determined bond schedules are basically presumed to be reasonable amounts. The third step, if it is necessary, is a bail reduction hearing before the trial judge. This is a full adversarial hearing, and both the defense attorney and prosecutor typically make arguments and present evidence.

To secure release, the defendant may generally either post the entire amount of bail in cash or pay a bondsman a premium, which is usually 10 percent, to post bail. In some cases, a judge may set a cash-only bail. While they are out on bail, most defendants must comply with probation-like conditions. When the trial is over, cash bails are refunded, but bond premiums are nonrefundable.

Contact Experienced Attorneys

Pretrial release is an important component of an effective defense. For prompt assistance in this area, contact an aggressive criminal defense attorney in Port St. Lucie from Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

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