Expanded Jail Release Options In Florida
The Constitution’s Eighth Amendment prohibits “excessive bail” in criminal cases. Excessive is a vague word which could mean many different things. As the percentage of unsentenced inmates rises, more options become available under the excessive bail prohibition. No one wants to see people remain in jail simply because they cannot afford to make bail.
This expansion is good news for Tampa criminal lawyers, as well as their clients. Prompt jail release is necessary to jumpstart a criminal defense. Defendants who remain behind bars face significant legal disadvantages. Obviously, faster jail release is also beneficial to defendants and their loved ones.
A few states have eliminated the cash bail system and converted to a pure pretrial release system. These full conversions have had mixed results. Therefore, a majority of states, including Florida, are testing the pretrial release waters. But they have not plunged into the deep end.
Pretrial release, or OR (Own Recognizance) release, changes an arrest to a traffic ticket, at least for jail release purposes. If the defendant promises to abide by certain conditions, the sheriff releases the defendant. These conditions normally include:
- Appearing at all required hearings or trial dates,
- Remaining in the county,
- Paying a small administrative fee,
- Working and/or attending school full time, and
- Checkin in with a pretrial release officer.
Certain offense-specific conditions usually apply as well. For example, most DUI defendants can only drive with IEDs (Ignition Interlock Devices).
The low financial cost might be pretrial release’s biggest plus. However, in most cases, only people charged with nonviolent crimes who have no criminal record are eligible for OR release. That requirement excludes most defendants.
This option is usually available to everyone except the most serious and most violent offenders. It’s also the most expensive option.
Essentially, cash bond is like a rental security deposit. If the renter returns the real or personal property on time and in good shape, the renter gets all or most of the deposit back. Similarly, if the defendant complies with all release conditions, the defendant gets most of the cash bond back.
Usually, the sheriff sets presumptive cash bail amounts as soon as inmates are booked into jail. This presumptive amount varies, usually depending on the nature of the offense and the defendant’s criminal record. In most jurisdictions, these presumptive amounts are around $750 for most misdemeanors and $2,500 for most felonies.
If the family cannot afford bail, or the sheriff refuses to set an amount, an attorney can usually arrange for a reasonable bail amount at the arraignment. This hearing before a magistrate judge usually happens about three days after the arrest.
A bail bond is basically an insurance policy. If your house burns down, the fire insurance company bears the financial risk. Likewise, if the defendant doesn’t fulfill all release conditions, the bail bond company bears the financial risk. Most bail bonds offices charge about a 15 percent premium to write these policies.
An attorney can negotiate with the bail bond company and obtain more favorable conditions. For example, many defendants live in one county and work in another one. An attorney can usually modify the remain-in-the-county requirement in these cases.
Count On a Dedicated Attorney
Getting out of jail today is easier than it was before. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Tampa, contact the OA Law Firm. We routinely handle matters in Hillsborough County and nearby jurisdictions.