It's a phone call that no one wants to get. “I'm in jail, and I need you to bail me out.” Calls like this never come at a convenient time, so it's helpful to be able to reference an article like this to ensure that you're following the proper steps for getting your loved one out of jail. The bail process is different from state to state, so if you aren't in Florida, consult a local criminal defense attorney or bail bond agency to find out the process. In Broward, Palm Beach, and Orange counties, Weinstein Legal can guide you through the steps and handle what's to follow.
What is Bail?
Bail is a sum of money the defendant provides the court to ensure that they will return if the judge releases them. The words bail and bond are often used interchangeably, but there is a small difference. Bail is the money given to the court, and a bond is a loan that the defendant or third party takes out to pay that bail. The principle behind bail is that a defendant will return to the court rather than lose the money the court is holding for them, but of course, that doesn't always happen. If the defendant doesn't show up to court to face justice, the court can revoke the pretrial release and issue a warrant. Additionally, the bail money may be forfeited to the court, which is why bail bond agencies often place bounties for recalcitrant defendants.
How Bail is Set
By law, the defendant is entitled to a bond hearing within 48 hours of being processed for an arrest. That does not, however, mean that they're guaranteed to be released. During the bond hearing, the judge will review the probable cause affidavit, inform the defendant of their charges, and advise the defendant that they have the right to counsel. If the defendant already has a criminal defense lawyer, the attorney can argue on the defendant's behalf for a low bail amount. Similarly, the state may argue for a higher bond or not allow any bond at all. When setting bail, the judge may consider the following factors:
- The defendant's age
- The defendant's criminal history
- The nature of the crime or crimes that the defendant is charged with
- Whether the defendant is a flight risk
- Whether the defendant is employed or in school
- The income level of the defendant
- Any history of not showing up to court appearances
- The defendant's standing in the community
For more serious crimes where the defendant poses a flight risk, the judge may decide not to allow the defendant to be released on bond.
Limits on Bail
Judges can not indiscriminately order a high bail amount, but there are circumstances under which the judge can increase the dollar amount. Additionally, each county has its own bail amount schedule. For instance, a second-degree misdemeanor in Broward may warrant a different bail amount than a second-degree misdemeanor in Orange County or Palm Beach County. Additionally, if the defendant is charged with multiple offenses, the bail amount will be higher. It makes sense that someone charged with burglary, grand theft, and fleeing and eluding from an incident would have a higher bail than another defendant who has only been charged with grand theft. Certain offenses are not eligible for bail. Defendants charged with capital felonies, life felonies, and domestic battery offenses may not be eligible for bail.
Conditions of Bail
Conditions of pretrial release are enumerated in Florida Statute 903.047. These conditions include:
- Refraining from criminal activity
- Avoid contact with the victim if the court issues a no-contact order (This may also be considered witness tampering, depending on the circumstances, which is a separate crime.)
- Any other conditions that the judge lawfully order
An experienced criminal defense lawyer can often get the court to reduce the bail amount or alter the conditions of the pretrial release.
Options for Paying Bail
Depending on the amount of the bail, you can pay the entire amount of the bail or approach a bond agency, which will issue a bond for up to 90% of the bail amount if you have collateral. There are multiple payment options for paying bail, but they differ from county to county. Broward, Palm Beach, and Orange counties accept cash, money orders, traveler's checks, and cashier's checks, but no personal checks. You can also send a Western Union chase transfer, but it must be the exact amount. Broward County and Palm Beach counties also accept payment via a credit card or debit card.
Getting Out of Jail Free
Depending on many factors, the defendant may be released without bond or ROR - released on their own recognizance. This is generally reserved for first offenders of minor crimes. In these cases, the bond would not be significant. Otherwise, if you don't pay bail, you will have to remain in jail for the disposition of your case or until your attorney can obtain a bail reduction.
Frequently Asked Questions About Bail in Florida
Hundreds of thousands of people are arrested in Florida every year. If you or someone you care about has been arrested, you probably want to know how to get them out of jail. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions and answers from our criminal defense attorneys.
How Soon Can I Post Bail?
By law, the defendant must have a bond hearing within 48 hours of being processed, but frequently they can be released within several hours. Your best bet is to contact the county jail and ask for the status of the defendant. Or use the time to contact a criminal defense attorney to help the defendant protect their rights.
Is the Bail Process the Same for Juveniles?
No, for all but serious crimes, the parent or legal guardian can usually pick up the juvenile defendant at the county facility once they've been processed. To learn more, visit our juvenile defense attorneys page.
Will I Get My Bail Money Back?
Although it seems reasonable that you would have your bail money refunded to you if the defendant shows up to court when they're supposed to, the court may hold your bail money until all of the defendant's financial obligations are paid. Otherwise, they may use some or all of the money for court fees, fines, and restitution.
What Happens to My Money if the Defendant Violates Pretrial Release?
The court holds bail money until the case is concluded. If the defendant flees justice, your bail money can be held indefinitely or until they return to court and the case is completed.
Get Help From a Defense Lawyer
For more specific information about how bail and bonds work, search for a “criminal defense attorney near me” to discuss your case. Or, if you're located in Broward, Palm Beach, or Orange County, contact Weinstein Legal. The criminal defense team at Weinstein Legal can not only help you arrange bail but they can also offer an ironclad defense for you or the defendant. Contact the Weinstein Legal Team today. Your future may depend on it.