A bond is collateral that a defendant uses to secure their freedom while awaiting trial or other resolution of their case. A bond is often referred to as bail, especially in state courts. In Florida there is a standard bond schedule for specific charges, making it relatively easy to obtain a bond or post the fee to be released. In federal court, the process is very different and your best chance of obtaining a bond lies with hiring a criminal defense attorney with extensive experience working in the federal court system.
Factors to Obtain a Bond
If you are indicted and arrested on federal charges, you will have a detention hearing to determine if you will be released. The judge will consider two factors in making this decision:
- Do you present a flight risk, meaning that you are likely to flee the area or the country; and
- Do you present a danger to the community, for example is there evidence that you could harm someone if you are released until trial.
If the judge finds sufficient evidence that you are not a flight risk or danger to others, there are two types of bonds that are possible. These are:
- A Signature Bond does not require you to post money but you must stay within a designated district. If you violate the conditions of the bond you must then pay at the amount specified within the agreement.
- A Secured Bond requires that you produce property or item that would be forfeit to the government if you violate the bond.
Your chances of success in obtaining a bond are greatly improved when you hire skilled legal counsel.
One of the biggest challenges in obtaining a bond in federal court is the concept of presumption. There are certain charges where you are presumed to be a flight risk or a danger to others and therefore should not be released. This presumption attaches to nearly every type of federal case with the exception of financial crimes, such as wire fraud, and includes most drug offenses, any crime involving a minor, terrorist threats or activities, and any case where there person is exposed to a sentence of life in prison. Even though this presumption exists, your attorney can challenge it and may be able to secure a bond.
Timing of Hiring an Attorney
This presumption makes obtaining a bond difficult and why you should hire federal legal counsel as soon as you know that you are under investigation or being indicted. Your chances of obtaining a bond are much greater before you are arrested than after, so again, do not wait. Your attorney will negotiate with the US Attorney’s Office and federal case agent, such as FBI, DEA, ICE or Homeland Security, to come up with conditions to secure a bond. These conditions can include wearing an ankle monitor, participating in counseling, and using assets such as a home or car as collateral. By getting ahead of the situation, even in cases where your crime falls within the presumption of not allowing bond, your attorney may be able to secure bond anyway.
We have successfully negotiated with the US Attorney’s Office for a bond using several arguments, such as our client:
- Has a third party custodian to monitor him or her while out on bond;
- Is gainfully employed;
- Has family or other close ties to the community;
- Will surrender their international passport as proof that they aren’t planning to flee the country;
- Will offer property as collateral, so if they were to leave the county or state, then they will forfeit this valuable asset; and
- Has begun counseling (drug, substance abuse, or other) to demonstrate a good-faith effort to modify his or her behavior.
When we present these facts to the US attorney and federal case agents prior to going to court, we have obtained bond for our clients over 90% of the time.
If you wait until you are arrested, we can present similar arguments to the court but this will be at the detention hearing and it is more difficult to win. In emergency cases where we haven’t had time to prepare our arguments in support of bond, we go to the detention hearing and request a delay of between 2 and 7 days so we can get our client’s affairs in order to make an effective presentation. This process increases our chance of getting the client released while the case is pending.
The Importance of Obtaining a Bond
Some people believe that it is better to stay in jail and get credit for the time that they are serving rather than obtaining a bond, but this is short-sighted. When your attorney is successful in obtaining a pre-trail release it provides many benefits, such as it:
- Creates an opportunity for you to offer substantial assistance to prosecutors in other investigations for a reduced sentence. If you are not incarcerated, it increase your ability to actively help a federal agency in their investigations.
- Allows you to continue to provide for your family and address all legal and financial issues prior to sentencing if it is likely that you will serve time in prison.
- Aids in your defense. If we are fighting this case in court, the fact that you are not in jail makes it easier for you to work with me as we craft your defense. If you are incarcerated, I have to schedule times to meet with you in jail and there are restrictions on what I can show you, which limits your effectiveness is preparing your case.
You need an attorney who is familiar with federal pre-trial bond, and has secured it even in cases where the US Attorney’s Office has contested it. We have this expertise and stand ready to represent you in federal, state, or local jurisdictions.