Wednesday, November 13, 2013

State Attorney's Message: Revoking Bond

By Mark A. Ober

Unless charged with a capital offense or an offense punishable by life imprisonment and the proof of guilt is evident or the presumption is great, every person charged with a crime or violation of municipal or county ordinance shall be entitled to pretrial release on reasonable conditions. If no conditions of release can reasonably protect the community from risk of physical harm to persons, assure the presence of the accused at trial, or assure the integrity of the judicial process, the accused may be detained. Art. I, § 14, Fla. Const.

The custody status of a defendant pending trial is a balance between the defendant’s presumption of innocence and the need to keep the community safe.  Under Florida law, there is a presumption in favor of nonmonetary conditions of release for defendants who are not charged with dangerous crimes. See § 907.041(3), Fla. Stat. In most cases, a criminal defendant is entitled to release on bond while awaiting trial.  In Florida, the terms “bail,” “bond,” and “pretrial release” are usually interchangeable. See § 903.011, Fla. Stat. 

By statute, the defendant must comply with certain conditions of release. See § 903.047, Fla. Stat. While out on bond, a defendant cannot engage in criminal activity or contact the victim in the case. See § 903.047, Fla. Stat. The court may also set other special conditions of release if those special conditions are reasonable. See Hernandez v. Roth, 890 So. 2d 1173 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2004).  When determining the amount of bail or other conditions of release, the court has to consider such factors as the nature of the charges, the weight of the evidence, the prior record and individual circumstances of the defendant, and the potential danger to any victims. See § 903.046, Fla. Stat. 

What happens when a defendant violates the conditions of release? Florida law allows a defendant who has violated the conditions of pretrial release to be held without bond under certain circumstances.   

If there is probable cause to believe that the defendant has committed a new crime, the court may revoke bond on its own. See § 903.0471, Fla. Stat. This frequently occurs when the defendant is at first appearance on a new charge.  The probable cause affidavit prepared for the new charge can be sufficient to revoke bond on the initial case. See Perry v. State, 842 So. 2d 301 (Fla. 5th DCA 2003). 

The court may also order pretrial detention if a defendant violates a condition of release and the court finds that “no conditions of release can reasonably protect the community from risk of physical harm to persons or assure the presence of the accused at trial.” § 907.041(4)(c)(7), Fla. Stat. The state must file a motion for pretrial detention, and the state carries the burden at the motion hearing. See § 907.041, Fla. Stat; Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.132.

My office protects the community, not just by seeking convictions, but also by seeking to revoke bond before trial where it is necessary to keep our community safe.