If you have been arrested for a state of Florida offense, you are entitled to a bond hearing. You may be eligible for release on your own recognizance or a reduction of bond. Here are a few tips on being released from incarceration while awaiting trial.
The Florida Constitution provides that “Unless charged with a capital offense or an offense punishable by life imprisonment and the proof of guilt is evident or the presumption is great, every person charged with a crime or violation of municipal or county ordinance shall be entitled to pretrial release on reasonable conditions. If no conditions of release can reasonably protect the community from risk of physical harm to persons, assure the presence of the accused at trial, or assure the integrity of the judicial process, the accused may be detained.” Article I, Section 14, Florida Constitution.
The first exception is the pretrial detention exception: if no conditions of release can reasonably protect the community from risk of physical harm to persons, assure the presence of the accused at trial, or assure the integrity of the judicial process, the accused may be detained.
The second exception is the capital or life offense exception: pretrial release may be denied to an accused who is charged with a capital offense or an offense punishable by life imprisonment and the proof of guilt is evident or the presumption is great.
Non Capital or Offenses Punishable by Life
When a defendant is not charged with a capital offense or offense punishable by life imprisonment, he is entitled to bond. A defendant is also entitled to reasonable bond which brings into focus the financial condition of the defendant. Depending upon the financial circumstances of the defendant, excessive bond is tantamount to no bond.
In addition to the defendant’s financial circumstances, there are numerous criteria to be considered in setting bond and each case is dependent upon its individual facts. Factors to be considered in determining the amount of bond include the nature of the offense and the penalty, the character and strength of the evidence or probability of guilt, the probability of the accused appearing at trial, his accessibility to means of flight, his family ties and employment, the length and stability of his residence in the community, the prior record of the accused in responding to process, whether the accused was a fugitive from justice when arrested, whether the accused is under bond for appearance at trial in other cases, his respect for the law, the accused’s character and reputation, and the state of his health.
Capital Offense or Offense Punishable by Life
Before bond can be denied to an accused charged with a capital offense or an offense punishable by life imprisonment, the State must come forward with a showing that the proof of guilt is evident or the presumption is great. In a capital case or a case involving life imprisonment where the accused is seeking bond, the State has the burden of proof on the issue of whether the proof of guilt is evident and the presumption great. It is not sufficient to justify a denial of bond in such cases where the evidence establish merely a probability of guilt.
The Purpose of Bond
Section 903.046, Florida Statutes, provides that the purpose of bond is to ensure the appearance of the criminal defendant at subsequent proceedings and to protect the community against unreasonable danger from the criminal defendant. The statute lists criteria which should be taken into consideration in evaluating a request for bond or bond reduction.
Rule 3.131, Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure states that the judicial officer shall impose the first condition of release enumerated in the rule which will reasonably protect the community from risk of physical harm to persons, assure the presence of the accused at trial, or assure the integrity of the judicial process.
Excessive bond is tantamount to a denial of bond. Bond is basic to our system of law. Doubts whether it should be granted or denied should always be resolved in favor of the defendant.
If you have been charged with a State of Florida offense you may be entitled to release from incarceration pending trial. Unless you are charged with a capital offense or a punishable by life offense, and the State cannot show that you are a danger to the community or a flight risk you may be entitled release on personal recognizance or bond or conditionally release. Contact a criminal defense lawyer and request a bond hearing. You should choose an attorney you can communicate with who will answer all of your questions. Hiring an attorney with knowledge and experience is essential to a successful outcome of your case.