pretrial detention bond hearing

Post: Florida’s New Pretrial Detention Laws Make it Harder to Bond out of Jail

Florida’s new pretrial detention laws, enacted as part of the state’s “tough on crime” initiative, are adding to the chaos in the court system and could wind up keeping even more people in already crowded jails.

Pretrial detention refers to the period of incarceration after an arrest but before a trial. Traditionally, most defendants were entitled to post a reasonable bond and be released. However, under the new law, individuals accused of committing certain “dangerous crimes” now face a different set of rules.

Critics say the new rules eliminate the possibility of granting bond at the first appearance for many, increasing pretrial detention hearings and defendants held without bond pending trial.

The law now identifies 26 specific dangerous crimes, including arson, aggravated assault, sexual battery, and terrorism, among others. Previously, the judge had the discretion to release an accused on electronic monitoring or a recognizance bond. However, the revised law eliminates this discretion, mandating monetary bonds for all defendants charged with dangerous crimes. This change disproportionately affects defendants with limited financial resources who cannot afford monetary bonds.

Changes to Bond Requirements and Pretrial Detention

The legislation aims to prevent individuals charged with violent crimes from bonding out of jail without first appearing before a judge. By blocking repeat offenders and those arrested for specific felonies from seeking pretrial release, the new law is meant to ensure that individuals are appropriately assessed before being released back into the community.

Previously, each of Florida’s twenty judicial circuits had the discretion to determine bail amounts. Under the new law, lower court judges are prohibited from reducing bail below new statewide guidelines set by the Supreme Court. However, they retain the ability to increase the bail amount if deemed necessary.

Critics of this change argue that it eliminates a judge’s discretion to lower bail based on the specific circumstances of a case. They maintain that judges possess intimate knowledge of the facts and circumstances of an individual’s case, and in certain situations, reducing bail can be beneficial.

Sebastian Smith, president of the Florida Undergraduate Law Review, told Daniel Bednar of the University of Florida Alligator that “These judges have intimate knowledge of the specific facts and circumstances of individuals’ cases, and in certain situations, it is greatly beneficial to pursue bail reduction.”

Delays in Bonding out of Jail

And the new setup is causing delays for people trying to bond out. Judge Nushin Sayfie of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit told Miami’s NBC6 News that delays are happening because the corrections department now seems to have most of the responsibility for assessing who is or is not a risk.

“If you get arrested for any felony at all” Judge Sayfie said, “let’s say possession of cocaine — theoretically, corrections is now supposed to screen you and make sure that you are not on pretrial release, probation, community control in this state or any other state.”

But, Sayfie says, the local corrections office may be reluctant to take responsibility out of fear of taking the blame for mistakenly releasing an offender who goes on to commit a violent crime. In addition, corrections centers may not have systems and procedures in place to efficiently and accurately determine who is eligible to be released on bail.

Changes to the Bond Schedule

In addition to the alterations in the pretrial detention statute, the new law also mandates the imposition of a statewide bond schedule by the Florida Supreme Court. It sets the following bond amounts for defendants eligible for pretrial release before their first appearance:

  • Third Degree Felonies involving force or threat of violence against a person: $5,000
  • Third Degree Felonies not involving force or threat of violence against a person: $2,500
  • First Degree Misdemeanors involving force or threat of violence against a person: $1,000
  • First Degree Misdemeanors not involving force or threat of violence against a person: $500
  • Second Degree Misdemeanors involving force or threat of violence against a person: $250
  • Second Degree Misdemeanors not involving force or threat of violence against a person: $150
  • Driving or Boating Under the Influence: $500-$1,000

It’s important to note that judges still have the discretion to adjust bond amounts during the first appearance or establish a local bond schedule with higher bond amounts or additional release conditions.

Orlando Bail Bond Pretrial Detention Lawyer

If you or a loved one are charged with a crime that may require a bond or pretrial detention hearing, consider reaching out to the experienced attorneys at Rivas Law in Orlando, who specialize in bail hearings. Call 407-644-2466 to discuss your best options for bail bonds and pretrial detention hearings.

Criminal defense attorney The Rivas Law Firm