Bail Hearings in Federal Criminal Courts
Let's review what you need to know if you or a family member is trying to get out of custody in a federal criminal case.
Many people come to me after they made their first appearance in federal criminal court and have been detained and cannot get out. That's what's different between federal and state, and that is, at state, you can usually post bail or you can't, depending on how much it is.
Whereas, in federal, you can just be detailed. You cannot get out unless the judge gives you some bond condition.
So, many people are focused not on the case and whether or not they can get convicted or how much federal time they're cases carry, but on how to get out of custody.
There are limited benefits because you can get out, but you still have the case pending. I understand, though, that people want to try to fight their case from the outside if they get some custody time.
They want to get the time they're able to with their family, make whatever money they can, and spend time with their people. So sometimes, they want to fight the case and be out of custody while they're fighting the case. I get it.
So, this section of about how to get that no-bail off and get some bond set. Our federal criminal defense lawyers will review this topic further below.
Property Bond vs. Signature Bond
Again, when it comes to federal, I would say the best bonds if you want to get out are property bonds because it's real.
If one of your loved ones has property, for example, that has $200,000.00 in equity, and that equity is pledged to the court, and you get on a $200,000.00 property bond and you run away, abscond, and don't come back, then the government can take that $200,000.00 and the property and get their money.
Whereas if you have family members or friends who are willing to sign a signature bond, that means, let's say, your sister and your wife sign two $20,000.00 signature bonds; if you flee, they're just going to owe the $20,000.00 each to the government.
Whether that government comes for that money is a different story, but that's not as significant to somebody as someone who pledged property. So, that's the first thing to know. Usually, you're going to want to try to have some property.
Also, cash would be something that can be used if you save $50,000.00, you have it in a bank account, and you can show that you will pledge that $50,000.00 towards the bond, and you'll get it back when the case is over.
But, if your loved one absconds, the government can immediately take the $50,000.00. That means something. That's starting to get as close to a property bond as you can get, but many times, people don't have that much money on hand to be able to tie up while the case is pending.
What is Bond Hearing?
A federal bail hearing is also called a detention or bond hearing. The most critical factors for the judge to consider when addressing bond are the risk to public safety and the risk of flight by the defendant
Thus, the main factors that will be looked at in a bond hearing in federal criminal court are:
- whether you are a flight risk;
- do you have a passport?
- do you have a bad criminal record?
- how much time are you facing?
- are you facing a 10, or 15-year mandatory minimum?
That would make someone potentially run away. They'll also look at your criminal record to see whether or not you might be a career offender and are facing 20 years.
They will review to see if you have a real serious drug case and if you have prior acts of violence and prior drug convictions for trafficking drugs. They're going to look at everything, such as:
- do you have a property in California?
- do you have family here?
- have you ever failed to appear in court before?
- were you armed?
- does that make you dangerous because you're known to use weapons?
- will you potentially continue to deal drugs?
These are all things that are going to be factored in. When defendants are released pending trial, they are either released upon:
- their promise to return to court, or
- required to provide sureties.
This is for people willing to post collateral in the form of land, property, etc., of substantial value, which guarantees the defendant's return to court.
If the defendant flees, the sureties will forfeit the posted collateral to the government, which provides a strong incentive for both the defendant and the sureties to ensure that the defendant complies with their responsibilities to the federal court.
What is a Pretrial Services Report?
One essential document that judges in the federal system rely on for making bail determinations is a report prepared by the pretrial services department in federal court. This report will provide the judge with information about the defendants:
- work history;
- connections to the community.
Other factors will help the judge assess the defendant's public safety or flight risk. In federal court, it's common for the defendant also to be interviewed by pretrial services when preparing the report.
After the judge has determined a bail unfavorable to the defendant, there may still be an opportunity to revisit the issue.
In federal court, defendants initially detained without bond can request reconsideration of the bond decision by the judge who ultimately handles the case. A United States magistrate judge makes the preliminary determination.
Why Do You Need a Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer?
So, the bottom line is that I understand why people want to get out, and of course, I will do everything I can to get my clients out, but we also have to keep an eye on the case and how the case is going to be dealt with.
That's probably the first thing we want to talk about when we talk about getting a bond:
- what are we going to do with this case?
- is it going to take time?
- does it make sense to get a bond now, fight the case, or resolve it?
- are there other things that might be able to be done first before we seek that bond hearing that will make it more likely that you might be successful in the bond hearing?
The bail hearing is a critical first step in the criminal case process if you have been charged with a federal crime.
To have the best chance at a favorable outcome, you will need an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer that understands the bail process.
Your attorney will know the federal laws and the requirements for setting bail and understand compelling arguments for persuading the judge to grant a pretrial release.
It would be best to have a federal criminal attorney familiar with the prosecutor and judge in the federal court where your case is being held.
This means they should know the judge's prior decisions for granting pretrial release, which will help them prepare for your bail hearing with a better chance of success.
The outcome of your federal bail hearing can be life-changing because the judge decides whether you can go home to your family or remand to custody in a federal prison.
I've been doing federal criminal cases for 30 years. If you need the best, you've come to the right place. Pick up the phone now. Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. I stand at the ready to help you. The Hedding Law Firm is located in Los Angeles, CA.