How bail works in Florida 

On Behalf of | May 28, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Bail allows individuals who have been accused of a crime to be released from custody while they await trial. Understanding how bail works in Florida can help defendants and their families make informed decisions as their situation evolves. 

Broadly speaking, bail consists of money or property-based collateral offered to the court as a guarantee that the defendant will return for all scheduled court appearances. If the defendant appears as required, the bail is returned at the end of the trial, regardless of the outcome. If the defendant doesn’t appear as required, the bail may be forfeited, and a warrant for their arrest will be issued.

The bail process in Florida

After an individual is arrested, they are taken to a local law enforcement station. During the booking process, personal information, fingerprints and photographs are collected. Most of the time, within 24 hours of arrest, the defendant must appear before a judge for a first appearance hearing. During this hearing, the judge reviews the charges and decides whether to set bail. The judge considers several factors, including the severity of the offense, whether the defendant is reasonably considered a flight risk and whether they have a criminal record. 

In Florida, judges have discretion in setting bail amounts. They may refer to a bail schedule, which provides standard bail amounts for various offenses, but they can adjust the amount based on the specifics of the case. For minor offenses, a preset bail amount may apply, allowing for quicker release.

Types of bail in Florida

In a cash bail scenario, the defendant or a representative pays the full bail amount in cash. But, if the defendant cannot afford the full amount owed, they can engage the services of a bail bond agent. The agent charges a non-refundable fee, typically 10% of the bail amount, and provides a surety bond to the court. The agent is then responsible for ensuring the defendant appears in court.

In some cases, no bail money is required. The defendant signs a written agreement to appear at all court dates so that they can be “released on their own recognizance.” This option is usually reserved for low-risk defendants with strong community ties.

Finally, the defendant or a representative can offer real estate as collateral for bail, risking foreclosure in the event of a failure to appear. When granting bail, a judge may impose certain conditions to ensure the defendant’s appearance in court and protect the community. These conditions should be respected or additional consequences may be imposed.