If you are facing arrest in Florida, you may seek bail to avoid jail time while awaiting your trial. In this blog, our team of criminal defense attorneys at Fletcher & Fletcher offer valuable insights into the bail and legal procedures post-arrest. We recognize the emotional and financial challenges that ensue and are committed to leveraging our knowledge and experience to assist individuals navigating these situations.
The Bail Process in Florida
In simple terms, bail refers to the sum set by a judge that you must pay to secure your release from jail while anticipating trial. This money is a safeguard, ensuring you attend all planned court sessions.
If you get arrested in Florida, the police will handcuff you and take you into custody. They will transport you to a local jail or detention center for a booking procedure, where they will record your personal details, gather your fingerprints, and photograph you for identification. This entire process can take several hours.
Once booking is complete, you will remain in custody until you can go before a judge for a First Appearance hearing. The court determines the amount for pretrial release based on various factors like the nature of the alleged crime, evidence weight, criminal history, community ties, flight risk, and financial resources.
It’s important to contact a dedicated criminal defense lawyer as early as possible in this process to ensure your rights are protected every step of the way.
Types of Bail in Florida
In Florida, bail is a crucial aspect of the criminal justice system, providing individuals with an opportunity to secure their release from custody while awaiting trial.
There are several types of bail available in Florida, each designed to accommodate different circumstances and levels of risk.
- The most common form of bail in Florida is monetary bail, where the court sets a specific amount of money that must be paid for the defendant to be released. This amount varies based on the severity of the charges and the defendant’s perceived flight risk. If the defendant complies with all court appearances, the bail money is returned, but failure to appear may result in forfeiture of the bail amount.
- In some cases, the court may opt for non-monetary forms of bail, such as release on recognizance (ROR). This type of bail allows the defendant to be released without posting any financial security. However, it is typically reserved for individuals with minimal flight risk and strong community ties. Pretrial services may be involved in monitoring the defendant to ensure compliance with court orders.
- Another option is a property bond, where the defendant or their family can use real estate as collateral for the bail amount. This involves proving that the property’s value is sufficient to cover the bail if the defendant fails to appear. Property bonds can be complex and require help from a dedicated Florida defense attorney to ensure compliance with the court’s requirements.
- Finally, Florida also allows for a conditional release known as pretrial release or supervised release. This involves the defendant being released under specific conditions, such as regular check-ins with a pretrial officer, drug testing, or participation in counseling programs. These conditions are designed to mitigate the risk of flight or further criminal activity while awaiting trial.
Failing to Appear and Bail Forfeiture
When a defendant does not show up in court after being bailed out of jail, it is considered “jumping bail,” and leads to the forfeiture of the bond and potential criminal charges for bail jumping. In Florida, this act is criminalized under Section 843.15 of the Florida Statutes, titled “failure of defendant on bail to appear.”
If you fail to appear in court as required, you risk losing the money you provided for your release. The consequences vary based on the initial charge:
- For felony charges, failing to appear is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison or a fine not exceeding $5,000, or both.
- For misdemeanor charges, failing to appear is a misdemeanor of the first degree, carrying penalties of up to one year in jail, a fine not exceeding $1,000, or both.
It’s essential to understand the potential legal repercussions and act accordingly to fulfill court obligations.
The Role of Bail Bondsmen
When a judge sets bail for someone’s release from jail, and the accused can’t gather the full amount, they may seek assistance from a bail bondsman, either personally or through a friend or family member. Before reaching out, it’s crucial to have specific information prepared:
- The location of the person in custody and the jail’s name.
- The full name of the individual and, if possible, their booking number.
- The bail amount required for the release.
Upon contacting the bail bondsman, they will discuss pricing options, typically involving a non-refundable fee, usually 10-20% of the total bail amount. Once the bail bonding company receives their fee, they provide the court with a surety bond to secure the defendant’s release. If the defendant fulfills all court obligations and doesn’t miss any dates, there are no additional payments to the bail bondsman.
However, if the defendant skips bail and misses a court date, the court retains the bail money from the bonding agency. In such cases, friends or family who co-signed the bail bond become responsible for the full bond amount. Additionally, the bail bond agent holds the authority to locate and detain the defendant, surrendering them to the court if necessary.
Contact Fletcher & Fletcher Florida Criminal Defense Attorneys Today
If you are facing arrest in St. Pete or the surrounding areas of Florida, the criminal defense attorneys at Fletcher & Fletcher are prepared to stand by your side and assist in your defense. Contact us today at (727) 369-9850 for further details and to schedule your complimentary initial consultation.