Bail and Pretrial Detention

Bail in the federal system is very different than bail in the state system. If the prosecutor asks for a person to be held without bail, you have a right to a hearing to determine whether you should be released until your trial date. That hearing is usually three business days after your first appearance in court. If the magistrate judge determines that bail is appropriate, she will set bond conditions that she believes will ensure you appear in court when required.

There are many different types of bail terms, some of which may require money to be deposited with the court or additional family and friends to sign. Bail bondsmen are rarely used in the federal system, so please speak to the attorney handling the case prior to contracting a bails bondsman for a federal case.

At your first hearing in federal court, a federal magistrate judge will decide if you qualify for a court-appointed attorney and whether you may be released on a bond or held in jail while the case is pending. Initial appearances in federal court usually take place in the early afternoon, usually at either 1:30 pm or 2:00 pm.

The federal magistrate judge holding the first appearance hearing calendars changes every week. You should call the Office of the Clerk of Courts to find out the exact start time and location for your first appearance. You can contact the Clerk’s Office at (305) 523-5100 in Miami-Dade County, (954) 769-5400 in Broward County, (561) 803-3400 in Palm Beach County, (772) 467-2300 in St. Lucie County, or (305) 295-8100 in Key West.

There may be a hearing at your first appearance to determine whether you should be released, and if so, on what conditions. The hearing may take place at your initial appearance, or it may get reset to a few days later if your attorney needs more time to prepare. If the government prosecutor says at your initial appearance that it is seeking to have you held in jail during the case without a bond, then the federal magistrate judge will likely reset the hearing to three (3) days later.

There is no fixed bail amount in federal court. A magistrate judge releases you on conditions sufficient to ensure your continued appearance in court. The conditions of your bail vary depending on the seriousness of the charges against you, your criminal history, your ties to the community, and your financial circumstances.

Bail in federal court is very different from bail in the state system. Bail bondsmen are rarely used in federal court for indigent defendants represented by the Federal Public Defender’s Office.

There are different types of bond in the federal system. The federal magistrate judge may impose what is called a “personal surety bond.” For this type of bond, if you do not appear in court as required or comply with other bond conditions, the government can collect up to the full amount of the bond from you and anyone that the judge asks to co-sign the bond.

The federal magistrate judge may also impose what is called a “percentage bond.” For this type of bond, you or your family will be required to deposit a certain amount of money with the Court (a percentage of the total bond amount). The cash deposited with the court is supposed to be collateral to give the court security that you will continue to appear in court as required. If you comply with all bond conditions, the money will be returned to the person who posted it with the court. A judge may also require that you or your family members agree to certain restrictions, such as promising to not sell a home. Or the judge may require that you be monitored electronically with an ankle bracelet or follow a curfew.

A bond is basically a contract between you, your co-signers, the government and the court. This contract requires that you show up to your court dates and comply with the conditions of the bond. If you do not, you could lose the cash deposited with the court, the government could collect up to the full amount of the bond from you and each of your co-signers, and the government could even arrest you and ask that you stay in jail while the case is pending.

Each case differs, but here is a list of conditions that the judge may impose for your bond:

Pretrial supervision, drug testing, mental health treatment, travel restricted to the Southern District of Florida, the surrender of all travel documents, electronic monitoring, a curfew, a requirement that you not visit any transportation centers such as airports, surrender of firearms, or a restriction on certain types of employment. These conditions are enforced to ensure your appearance in court. They will be laid out in the written bond document that you and your co-signers sign in court. If you need a copy of your bond document, please ask your Assistant Federal Public Defender.

Technically anyone lawfully residing in the country can be a co-signer on your bond.  It is better if the cosigners are close family members or friends. It is also better if the co-signers have either some income or assets. However, in some cases, a co-signer without any income will be permitted to sign. You should discuss who you think could be a potential co-signer with your attorney from our office.

Anyone planning to co-sign a bond should make every effort to come to the bond hearing. Anyone who comes to the bond hearing should know to come early enough to check in at the front desk, to bring current, government-issued picture identification, and to not bring in any cellular phones.

Once you are released on bond, you will need to report immediately to the U.S. Probation Office, and that office will start supervising you while your case is pending. Your attorney or the Pretrial Services Officer in court will provide you directions on where to report.

It is not uncommon to be released afterhours, so please let your family members know that they may need to wait several hours for you before you are released. If you are released after the U.S. Probation Office has closed for the day, please call and leave a message and then return first thing the next morning to report.

The following are the addresses and phone numbers of the different offices of the U.S. Probation Office in the Southern District of Florida:

Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. U.S. Courthouse
400 North Miami Avenue, Ninth Floor
Miami, Florida 33128
(305) 523-5300

Miami Lakes:
Miami Lakes Business Park West
14601 Oak Lane
Miami Lakes, Florida 33016
(305) 512-1800

Southern Centre
12900 SW 128 Street, Suite 200
Miami, Florida 33186
(305) 259-1300

Ft. Lauderdale:
U.S. Courthouse
299 East Broward Boulevard, Suite 409
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida 33301
(954) 769-5500

6565 Taft Street, Suite 300
Hollywood, Florida 33024
(954) 769-5570

West Palm Beach:
501 South Flagler Drive, Suite 400
West Palm Beach, Florida 33401
(561) 804-6894

Ft. Pierce:
U.S. Courthouse
101 South U.S. Highway 1, Suite 1094
Ft. Pierce, Florida 34950
(772) 467-2360

Key West:
301 Simonton Street, Suite 230
Key West, Florida 33040
(305) 295-8140

If you are accused of violating your pretrial release conditions, the court will hold a hearing regarding the alleged violation and may either place you in custody, modify the conditions of your release, or take no action at all. If you are found to violate a condition of your release, the court may find that you forfeited the bond, and may allow the government to collect up to the full amount of the bond against you or the co-signors.