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Pre-trial release programs benefit defendants and taxpayers

April 21, 2011

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Currently, efforts are underway by a special interest group to cut or end pre-trial release programs. Pre-trial release programs were created to benefit defendants charged with non-violent crimes and taxpayers as well. An experienced Miami criminal defense attorney will always attempt to secure a client's release through a pre-trial release program rather than posting a bond as it is much cheaper. In state court, all crimes, except for life felonies, have a standard bond. The bond is set as soon as a defendant is booked into the Miami-Dade County Jail. A defendant can post a bond one of two ways. A defendant can put up the cash for the entire amount of the bond to secure his or her release. At the conclusion of the case, the money put up for the bond will be returned to the person who posted it. If a defendant does not have the financial ability to post a cash bond, a bondsman can be hired to secure the release.

A bondsman will post a bond if a defendant pays 10% of the amount of the bond. This amount is referred to as the premium. For example, if a defendant is arrested for marijuana trafficking and the bond is set at $50,000, a $5,000 premium paid to the bondsman will secure one's release. Bondsmen may require a larger premium if a defendant lives outside of the county, state or country. If a defendant is not able to avail him or herself or a pre-trial release program and cannot afford the premium being sought by the bondsmen, then a lawyer can appear at bond hearing and ask for a reduction or file a motion for bond reduction and have the matter heard before the circuit court judge presiding over the case. A compelling argument will often cause a judge to reduce the bond allowing the defendant or his or her family to come up with the premium for the bondsman.

Even if a defendant can afford to post a cash bond, or has the money to give the 10% premium to a bondsman, certain offenses have a Nebbia requirement. Offenses that almost always have Nebbia requirements include drug trafficking, mortgage fraud, insurance fraud, etc. The purpose of the Nebbia is to prove to the prosecutor and the judge that the money and property being used to secure the bond does not come from the criminal enterprise for which the defendant is charged. The defendant will have to prove that the money used to post the bond comes from a legitimate source. Any property put up as collateral for the bond will also have to be traced back to demonstrate that it was obtained though legitimate means.

While pre-trial release is less costly to the defendant, it is more onerous because it requires monitored supervision. Defendants in a pre-trial release program have reporting requirements and are even sometimes required to maintain a schedule for employment and other activities. The restrictions placed on a defendant are within the sole discretion of the judge. The taxpayers truly benefit from these programs. Pre-trial release costs the taxpayers $5 dollars a day, while it costs the taxpayer $75 dollars a day to house an inmate. Some are concerned about the safety of the community when it comes to these types of programs. Only defendants charged with non-violent crimes such as theft, simple drug possession or felony traffic crimes will be give pre-trial release. Defendants charged with aggravated assault, sexual battery, or robbery will never be granted pre-trial release which should ease the minds of the community.

Preserve Pre-Trial Programs, Tampa Bay, April 21, 2011.
Categories: Bond Hearings
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