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27 Nov 23

Understanding Bail and Bond in Federal Criminal Cases in New York

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Last Updated on: 15th December 2023, 11:10 am

 

Understanding Bail and Bond in Federal Criminal Cases in New York

Getting arrested for a federal crime is scary. Your probably worried about going to jail, paying fines, and having a criminal record. This article explains the basics of bail and bond so you understand your options after a federal arrest in New York.

What is Bail and How Does it Work?

After your arrested, the judge sets an amount of money called “bail” that you must pay to get out of jail while your case moves forward. Bail is basically collateral to make sure you show up for court dates. If you pay the bail and then miss court, you forfeit the money.

Judges consider factors like flight risk, danger to the community, and severity of the alleged crime when setting bail. The 8th Amendment bans “excessive” bail, but there’s no objective standard. Bail for federal cases can range from $100 to millions of dollars.

Few people can afford to pay bail out-of-pocket. This is where a bail bondsman comes in. They will post your bail for a fee, usually 10% of the total bail amount. So if your bail is $20,000, you’d pay the bondsman $2,000.

Difference Between Bail and Bond

There’s often confusion between “bail” and “bond.” Here’s the difference:

  • Bail is the total amount set by the judge that you must pay for release.
  • Bond is the promise from a bondsman to pay the bail on your behalf in exchange for a 10% fee.

So in most cases, you don’t actually pay the full bail yourself. The bondsman posts bond equal to your bail, and you only have to pay them 10%.

How Bail Bondsmen Work

Bail bondsmen are basically bail lenders. They make money by charging defendants a nonrefundable 10% fee. Here’s how it works:

  1. Judge sets your bail at $20,000
  2. Bondsman charges $2,000 fee (10% of bail)
  3. Bondsman pays the $20,000 bail to court on your behalf
  4. You get released from jail but owe the bondsman $2,000
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The bondsman’s fee is nonrefundable even if charges are dismissed. And if you miss court dates, bondsmen can legally hunt you down!

Paying Bail Yourself

If you have the cash, you can pay your full bail instead of using a bondsman. This avoids their fee. If you show up for court, the bail money is returned after the case ends (minus administrative fees).

But coming up with 10% of bail is easier than 100% for most people. Saving bondsman fees can be worth it though.

Bail Reform and Federal Cases

You may have heard about bail reform in New York eliminating cash bail for many non-violent crimes. But this state reform does NOT apply to federal cases. Cash bail is still used widely in federal courts.

However, the Brennan Center advocates reforming federal bail laws:

Current federal bail policy leads to unnecessary incarceration of thousands who pose no threat to the community. And it disproportionately harms low-income communities of color.

They argue federal law should set “presumptive release” for non-violent crimes, only using bail when truly needed.

Seeking Bail Review or Reduction

If bail seems unreasonable, your lawyer can request a “bail review hearing” to ask for reduction. But judges rarely adjust bail downwards once set.

Still, getting bail lowered even a little can help. If bail goes from $500,000 to $250,000, the bondsman’s 10% fee drops from $50,000 to $25,000.

Factors That Influence Bail Decisions

Judges weigh these factors when setting federal bail:

  • Flight risk – Will you flee before trial?
  • Danger to community if released
  • Your criminal history and compliance with past release conditions
  • Employment and ties to local community
  • Seriousness of alleged crime
  • Strength of evidence against you

Judges have wide discretion on bail. But providing evidence you’re low risk can help get bail set lower.

Federal Rules on Bail Hearings

The Bail Reform Act governs federal bail rules. Key points:

  • Bail hearings usually happen within 3 days after arrest
  • Prosecutors must show “clear and convincing evidence” you pose a flight risk or danger to get denied bail
  • Most federal defendants get bail, but conditions like GPS monitoring, drug testing may apply
  • Immigration status cannot be the sole factor in denying bail, but judges can consider it

Knowing the rules helps ensure proper procedures are followed in your case.

Using Bail Bonds for Immigration Bonds

If your arrested by ICE, bail works differently. Immigration courts use “delivery bonds” instead of cash bail. But bondsmen can still help you pay immigration bonds.

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The process is similar to a criminal case. The ICE officer sets a dollar amount for the delivery bond. Then the bondsman pays this amount to ICE and gets you released while your immigration case proceeds.

Bondsman Industry Controversies

The commercial bail industry faces growing criticism of their practices, including:

  • Predatory lending accusations – High fees and interest rates
  • Strong-arm collection tactics – Harassing defendants’ families over debts
  • Lack of transparency – Hidden charges and confusion over fees
  • Connections to private prison industry – Ethical concerns over profit incentives

Reform advocates say the industry needs more regulation. But bondsmen argue they provide an essential service helping defendants get out of jail.

Tips for Working With a Bondsman

If using a bondsman, protect yourself by:

  • Shopping around – Compare rates and customer reviews
  • Getting ALL fees in writing upfront – No surprises
  • Keeping paperwork and receipts
  • Recording conversations to document promises
  • Knowing cancellation policies if charges dropped

Avoid shady bondsmen who demand collateral like property deeds or don’t disclose fees. And remember bondsmen have NO role in the legal case itself.