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Don’t Go Overboard With Excessive Bail In Florida!

florida bail

Every Floridian is guaranteed to be free from given excessive bail when being held for trial. But what exactly does that mean? The following article will examine the Excessive Bail Clause of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution and what it means for you if you find yourself charged with a crime in Florida.


The prohibition against excessive bail has its roots in English common law, beginning with the Petition of Right of 1628 that held that the king did not have the right to hold individuals in custody without bail. The Habeas Corpus Act of 1679 closed many loopholes exploited by sheriffs, which required judges to set a bail amount. However, judges often set bail at impossibly high amounts, subverting the intent of the law. The English Bill of Rights in 1689 further modified bail in England by stating that “excessive bail ought not to be required.”


In the United States, the legal framework for bail was established around the Eighth Amendment, which reads in whole:


“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”


Following the adoption of the Eighth Amendment in 1791, it fell to the Supreme Court to define what exactly constituted excessive bail. Among the more notable cases addressing excessive bail is Stack v. Boyle in 1951, which found that bail is excessive if it is


“higher than is reasonably calculated to ensure the defendant’s presence at trial.”


At present, the Excessive Bail Clause applies only to those in federal detention, and it is unclear whether the right is fully incorporated to the states. However, Florida has a procedural establishment that determines whether a criminal defendant may be released on bail and how much the amount of bail must be.


Within 24 hours of arrest, a defendant is brought before a judge in a first appearance. Unless the individual is charged with a capital offense or a felony punishable by life imprisonment, defendants in Florida are generally entitled to pre-trial release. Bail is then determined by a preset schedule that establishes amounts of bail for each offense. The predetermined bail amount varies based upon whether the crime is a felony or a misdemeanor and the severity of the offense.


In the case of a capital offense or a felony punishable by life, the court holds what is known as an “Arthur hearing,” which is a deeper examination into the facts and situation of the case. At an Arthur hearing, the state must show three things


  • The evidence against the defendant is sufficient to hold him or her on no bond,
  • the defendant is a danger to the community, or
  • the defendant is a flight risk.


In cases that are not capital offenses or punishable by life imprisonment, Florida courts hold a presumption in favor of release on non-monetary conditions if the defendant is not charged with a “dangerous crime,” such as arson, kidnapping, robbery, stalking, and several others.


In the case where a defendant is charged with a crime that is not on the list of dangerous crimes, release on personal recognizance of the defendant is typically the result in Florida.


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