Friday, March 10, 2006


The purpose of a bond is to place money or property at risk so that the Defendant may remain free pending the resolution of his case. Upon release the Defendant must abide by any restrictions placed upon him by the magistrate, judge or probation office as the case proceeds thru the federal system or the case proceeds in the Pinellas Criminal Court Complex or in Tampa.

On Motion for a Reduction of Bond filed timely by a Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney the court may insure the appearance of a Defendant with a signature bond based on a promise to pay if there is a nonappearance or a cash bond payed in advance of any appearance or with a property bond, also known as a secure bond.

In a typical case in the Federal District Court in Tampa a Federal Magistrate will look at the following factors to determine if bond should be reduced:
  1. Ties to the community. How long has the Defendant lived in the community? Does the Defendant have employment, own property and have family ties to the area?
  2. Risk of flight. Is there a likelihood that the Defendant will appear for his trial? Note that in Federal cases there is an automatic presumption of flight risk when the Defendant is charged with a significant amount of drugs. For example, if one is charged with Trafficking in Methamphetamine or Trafficking in Cocaine, a minimum mandatory jail sentence is triggered as is the rebuttable presumption that the Defendant will attempt to flee.
  3. Risk of danger to the community or to the victim of the crime, if any.
Surprisingly, the strength or weakness of the Government's case is ordinarily not a factor in determination of bond. Yet by timely demanding a Preliminary Hearing immediately before the detention hearing the Government will be forced to place unprepared testimony of the case agent subject to cross-examination before the Federal Magistrate to establish whether there is in fact Probable Cause to even be holding the Defendant.
This will rarely if ever free the Defendant,who after all, has been indicted by a Grand Jury that presumably has heard relevant evidence, but it may tend to show subtle problems with the charge.
For example, I once represented a too-trusting young middle class Canadian lady whose life was turned upside down when she was charged with Trafficking Drugs while she was in Tampa, Florida on vaction.
Under cross-examination during the Preliminary Hearing in the Middle District of Florida in Tampa that a Clearwater Criminal Federal Defense Lawyer demanded, the unprepared Case Agent from DEA testified that my client was actually not in the room when her boyfriend sold the drugs to a wired Confidential Informant. My client had gone into the bathroom. The Magistrate was clearly troubled and said so on the record, but could not reduce the bond; however, eventually the Government was forced to reduce the charge.