STRATEGIES FOR REDUCING BOND & BAIL IN TAMPA BAY COURTS, CLEARWATER and PINELLAS COUNTY, FLORIDAT
The purpose of a bond is to allow a Defendant to place money or property at risk in lieu of being imprisoned pending the resolution of his case. Upon release the Defendant must abide by any restrictions placed upon him by the presiding magistrate or judge.
A court can sometimes insure the appearance of a Defendant for Court appearances with a Signature Bond which is based on a written promise to pay if there is a nonappearance for a Court hearing or with the payment of a Cash Bond in advance of any appearance or with a Property Bond (also known as a Secure Bond).
In Florida, Courts in the Tampa Bay Area, Clearwater and in Pinellas County will look at the following factors to determine if bond should be reduced:
1. Ties to the community. How long has the Defendant lived in the community? Does the Defendant have employment, own property and have family ties to the area?
2. Risk of flight. Is there a likelihood that the Defendant will appear for his trial? Note that in Federal cases, Judges at the Federal District Court in Tampa, Federal Magistrates will follow Federal law that there is an automatic presumption of flight risk when the Defendant is charged with a significant amount of drugs. For example, if one is charged with Trafficking in Methamphetamine or Trafficking in Cocaine, a minimum mandatory jail sentence is triggered as is the rebuttable presumption that the Defendant will attempt to flee.
3. Risk of danger to the community or to the victim of the crime, if any.
Surprisingly, the strength or weakness of the Government's case is ordinarily not a factor in determination of bond. Yet an effective attorney by timely demanding a Preliminary Hearingimmediately before the bond hearingthe Government will be forced to place unprepared testimony of the case agent subject to cross-examination before the Federal Magistrate to establish whether there is in fact Probable Cause to even be holding the Defendant.
This will rarely if ever free the Defendant, who after all, has been indicted by a Grand Jury that presumably has heard relevant evidence, but it may tend to show subtle problems with the charge.
For example, I once represented a too-trusting young middle class Canadian lady whose life was turned upside down when she was charged with Trafficking Drugs while she was in Tampa, Florida on vaction.
Under cross-examination during the Preliminary Hearing that I'd demanded, the unprepared Case Agent from DEA testified that my client was actually not in the room when her boyfriend sold the drugs to a wired Confidential Informant. My client had gone into the bathroom. The Magistrate was clearly troubled and said so on the record, but could not reduce the bond; however, eventually the Government was forced to reduce the charge from a Trafficking Case to mere Possession, thus saving her from the possibility of spending many years in Federal Prison.