What factors will the court consider in setting my bond amount?
If you have been arrested for a misdemeanor or felony offense in Florida, one of your first concerns will likely be arranging for your release from prison. Within 24 hours after your arrest, you should be brought before a judge for a magistrate hearing. During this hearing, known as your first appearance, the magistrate judge will set the conditions for your release. Your first appearance is many times critical to securing your release from prison. Without an attorney to advocate on your behalf, your bond may be set to an unattainable amount. Our West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyers explain what will happen at the first appearance hearing and what factors a court will consider to potentially lower your initial bond amount below.
Am I Eligible to Receive a Bond?
At your first appearance, you have the right to have a reasonable bond set or request that your bond be lowered if you are deemed eligible to receive a bond. Certain offenses will render you unable to bond out of jail. Per Florida law, these typically include murder charges and some domestic violence charges. If you are on probation for another offense or have an immigration or some other sort of hold, you may also be ineligible for release.
Arguing for a Fair Bond
The magistrate judge will first consider what the court’s standard bond is for a given offense, often referred to as the bail schedule. However, the judge has the power to raise or lower this bond. Your attorney can present the court with an argument as to why your bond should be lowered or set to a certain amount. Factors considered in setting bond conditions include:
- Criminal record: A defendant with a criminal record will typically receive a higher bond amount than a defendant with no previous offenses. Your attorney can use a clean record in support of lowering your bond.
- Flight risk: A judge will consider the defendant’s ties to the community in an attempt to determine whether the defendant could try to leave the state or country to avoid imprisonment. Factors to be weighed include your job history, family status, financial resources, history in the community, and the like.
- Financial status: The court will consider the defendant’s finances and inability to meet a bond amount set. If the other factors weigh towards a lowering of the bond, the court may review what bond amount the family can afford. At times, the court may even consider releasing the defendant on his or her own recognizance.
Contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible after your arrest so that your attorney can start preparing for your bond hearing.