Nobody wants to be in jail in Florida. Luckily there is a legal mechanism in place that allows defendants facing criminal charges to await trial at their own homes as they carry on with their lives. The bail and bond system in Florida allows criminal defendants to do just that. Here’s what you need to know about the bail and bond system in Florida.
Although most people use the terms interchangeably, bail and bond in Florida are not the same. In criminal courts, a judge sets an amount that a defendant must deposit with the court that will allow him or her to be released until the trial begins. Several factors go into determining what a defendant’s bail will be, including
The crime(s) the defendant is charged with,
The weight of the evidence against the defendant,
Any previous instances of failing to appear to court,
The defendant’s criminal record,
The danger to the community posed by releasing the defendant,
The defendant’s ties to the community,
Whether the defendant is a flight risk,
The defendant’s mental condition,
The state of the defendant’s finances, and
The source of the funds that may be used to secure bond or post bail.
Once the bail amount is set, the defendant may arrange to have that amount of money placed on deposit with the court. The defendant will get the bond amount back at the conclusion of the trial regardless of the outcome, though a portion of the deposit may be used to pay fines and court fees.
If the defendant deposits the bail amount to the court, he or she is then released but is given conditions which he or she must meet to remain free. These conditions typically include not committing other crimes, not contacting the victim, and not associating with known criminals. If the defendant does not abide by these conditions, he or she is returned to jail and forfeits the entire bail to the court.
Frequently the bail amount set by the court is more than a defendant can pay, in which case a bail bond is available. A bail bondsman will typically require 10 percent of the bail amount to post the full bail amount. At that point, the bail bondsman retains the money paid by the defendant and will typically ask for some other form of collateral to guarantee that the bail bondsman will be made whole if the defendant does not show up to court. Once the trial is over, the bail bondsman is returned the full amount of his money by the court, but the defendant is not returned the money he or she paid the bail bondsman, as that is kept as the bail bondsman’s fee.
In some cases the court may not set a bail amount for a particular defendant. Instead, the defendant may be released on a “personal recognizance bond,” in which case he or she has been “released on their own recognizance.”
Though the court sets bail early on in the trial process, a defendant may ask for and possibly receive a reduction in bail or a personal recognizance bond at a later date.