How to Survive Your Criminal Case in Florida
(part 2 of a 9 part series)
By: Carlton “Duke” Fagan, Esq.
101 Century 21 Drive
Jacksonville, Florida 32216
(904) 733-1234 – Telephone
Bond and Bail Bondsmen
The primary purpose of a bail bond is to insure that an arrested defendant will show up for his court appearances. Without the presence of the defendant, his case cannot proceed to a conclusion. A secondary purpose of bail bonds is to place certain restrictions on the defendant to assure the safety of the community.
A reasonable bond is guaranteed to all arrested persons by 8th and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution and by Section 14 of the Declaration of Rights in the Florida Constitution. What is “reasonable” is open to wide judicial discretion. The State Attorney will usually request the highest bond he thinks the judge will set. Judges tend to be very cautious and conservative when setting bonds. This is especially true in the Fourth Judicial Circuit (Duval, Clay, and Nassau counties) where we have some of the highest bonds in the State of Florida. Your lawyer is the only person who will be able to advocate on your behalf for a lower bond.
When and where is bond set? If you are arrested on a warrant, the judge who signed the warrant set your bond and wrote it on the face of the warrant. If you were arrested without a warrant, your bond will be set at First Appearance, a proceeding that will take place within 24 hours of your arrest. See the previous section on First Appearance above.
First Appearance is your first opportunity to get out of jail. It is very important that you have a lawyer at First Appearance to argue for the lowest possible bond. You have only a few hours after your arrest to contact a lawyer in time for him to be at First Appearance to represent you. We regularly represent defendants at First Appearance. Call a family member or friend and ask them to call us immediately at (904) 733-1234 to make arrangements to have us at First Appearance to represent you. Our telephones are answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
If you presently have a bond that is too high for you to make, your lawyer can file and argue this motion as it will be your last opportunity (absent new grounds) to lower your bond. If you are facing a bond that is beyond your financial ability to make, ask your lawyer what can be done to lower it.
Once your bail amount is set, there are two ways to post it. A family member or friend can go down to the jail and give the Releasing Department the full amount in cash (exact amount only) plus a small service fee (usually $3.00. At the conclusion of the case, the full amount of the bond will be returned to the person that posted it. The other way to post bond is to use a bail bondsman.
How do bail bondsmen work? A bail bondsman will place the full amount of your bail for you for a fee of 10% of the bond amount. This fee is kept by the bondsman as payment for his services and is not refundable. For example, if your bail is $20,000.00, the bail bondsmen will charge a fee of $2,000.00 to place your bail and have you released from jail. Some bail bondsmen will work out payment terms on their 10% fee. Unlike what you may have seen on television, bail bondsmen are not “bounty hunters”. They are insurance agents. Bail bondsmen have contractual agreements with large insurance companies who guarantee the bond amount to the court. The bondsman pays a portion of his fee to the insurance company that guarantees your bond. “Skipping bond” by failing to make your court appearances is a serious offense. If you fail to appear, the court will issue a capias (warrant) for your immediate arrest. Additionally, the insurance company has “Recovery Agents” who search for and detain customers who fail to make their court appearances.