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How Bail and Bond Work in Miami Criminal Cases

How Bail and Bond Work in Miami Criminal Cases

Getting arrested and taken to jail can be a scary, overwhelming experience. Many people find themselves confused about bail and how the bond process works in Miami criminal cases. This article provides a helpful overview of bail, bonds, and what to expect if you or a loved one gets arrested in Miami.

What is Bail?

Bail is money or property given to the court to secure someone’s release from jail before their trial. Judges set bail during a defendant’s first appearance hearing, taking into account factors like the severity of charges, criminal history, ties to the community, and flight risk. Defendants can pay bail themselves or use a bail bondsman. If they attend all court hearings, bail is returned at the end of the case (minus any unpaid fines/fees).

Bail ensures defendants show up for court. If someone misses a hearing, their bail is forfeited and a warrant issued for their arrest. Bail amounts vary widely based on the charges – from $500-$1000 for minor misdemeanors up to $500,000+ for serious felonies. Defendants accused of violent/serious crimes may be denied bail altogether.

How Bail Bonds Work

If a defendant can’t afford to pay the full bail amount, they can use a bail bondsman. Bondsmen act as sureties who provide a bond to the court on the defendant’s behalf, charging a non-refundable fee – usually 10% of the bail amount.

For example, if bail is $10,000, the bondsman would charge $1,000. The bondsman provides a $10,000 bond to the court, the defendant is released, and the bondsman gets the $10,000 back at the end of the case (assuming the defendant doesn’t miss court). The $1,000 fee is non-refundable – even if charges are dropped.

Bondsmen may require collateral like property deeds or cash. They can also impose conditions like regular check-ins. If a defendant misses court, bondsmen have a limited time to find and surrender them before the bail is forfeited. Then bondsmen can recover costs through collateral/civil action.

The Bail Bond Process Step-by-Step

Here are the typical steps in the bail bond process after an arrest in Miami:

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  • Booking: Defendant is handcuffed, photographed, fingerprinted, etc. Booking can take several hours.
  • Charges Filed: Police present information about the defendant’s suspected crimes to prosecutors who decide on charges.
  • First Appearance: Judge advises defendant of charges, sets bail amount and conditions of release. Hearings are usually within 24 hours of arrest.
  • Hire a Bondsman: If bail is unaffordable, defendants contact a licensed bondsman to post bond. Bondsmen charge ~10% of bail as a fee.
  • Bond Approval: Bondsman reviews charges, bail amount and gathers collateral if required. Defendant signs agreement.
  • Release: Once bond paperwork is filed, the jail processes it and releases the defendant, often within a few hours.
  • Court Dates: As a condition of release, defendant must attend all scheduled court hearings. Missing court forfeits the bond.
  • Conclusion: Once the case ends, bail is returned to bondsman minus any court fees/fines. Bondsman keeps the ~10% fee.

Factors That Determine Bail Amounts

Miami judges consider these factors when setting bail:

  • Public Safety: Is the defendant a danger to the community if released? Violent crimes often have higher bail.
  • Flight Risk: Is the defendant likely to flee before trial based on community ties, prior failures to appear, etc?
  • Financial Resources: Can the defendant afford to flee? Those with access to significant funds may get higher bail.
  • Nature of Charges: More serious charges typically warrant higher bail amounts.
  • Criminal History: Repeat offenders usually get higher bail, while first-time offenders may get lower amounts.
  • Family Ties: Strong family/community connections may mean lower bail, while lack of ties can increase flight risk.

So bail amounts can vary widely even for similar charges based on a defendant’s unique circumstances. An experienced defense attorney can argue for lower bail.

Can Bail Be Denied?

Yes, judges can deny bail altogether in Miami if:

  • Defendant is charged with a capital offense (death penalty eligible)
  • Judge determines the defendant poses a threat to the community
  • Judge believes the defendant will flee and not return for trial
  • Defendant violated conditions of pretrial release in another case

Defendants who don’t get bail after their first appearance can request bail hearings to reconsider. But bail is rarely granted for very serious crimes like murder.

Getting Released – How Long Does it Take?

With bail bonds, release often occurs fairly quickly after booking and first appearance:

  • Misdemeanors: 4-8 hours
  • Minor Felonies: 8-24 hours
  • Serious Felonies: 1-3 days

But release times vary based on charge severity, jail staff workload, bond paperwork, etc. An experienced bondsman can help speed up the process.

Getting Bail Money Back

If you pay the full bail amount yourself, you get it all back (minus fees/fines) after the case ends and all court appearances are met.

But with bail bonds, you only pay ~10% upfront and that money is kept by the bondsman – even if charges are dropped. The bondsman gets the full bail amount back from the court (assuming no missed court dates).

So bail bonds cost more overall, but allow defendants to get out of jail for a fraction of the full bail amount. An attorney can advise on the best approach.


The bail system allows pretrial release for defendants who can pay, but many argue it unfairly penalizes the poor and people of color. Reform advocates make several key arguments against money bail:

  • Cash bail discriminates based on wealth. Wealthy defendants can simply pay bail and get released, while poor defendants stay locked up pending trial.
  • Pretrial detention can pressure innocent defendants to take plea deals just to get out of jail.
  • Jailed defendants have a harder time meeting with attorneys, gathering evidence, and mounting a defense.
  • Studies show pretrial detention increases likelihood of conviction, longer sentences, and recidivism.
  • Taxpayers foot the bill for housing pretrial detainees, estimated at $38 million a day nationwide.

Many states and local jurisdictions have reformed bail laws and practices in recent years. Key reforms include:

  • Eliminating cash bail and moving to risk-based release decisions.
  • Releasing more defendants on their own recognizance with support services.
  • Using pretrial risk assessments to guide release/detention decisions.
  • Diverting more defendants to pretrial services programs.
  • Ending bail schedules that pre-set standardized bail amounts.

But bail reform faces opposition from powerful bail industry lobbyists and some law enforcement groups. Critics argue:

  • Eliminating cash bail could release dangerous suspects.
  • Assessment tools may be racially biased.
  • Crime could increase if more defendants are released pretrial.
  • Reforms limit judicial discretion on bail decisions.

Overall, the research shows properly implemented reforms can reduce pretrial detention and costs without harming public safety. Smart reforms require funding pretrial services and community supervision programs. With care, bail reform can make the system fairer while maintaining law and order.

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