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Synopsis of Bail Hearings in Federal Court

Posted by John Rogers | Feb 20, 2021 | 0 Comments

After someone is arrested for a federal crime, then they are transported to federal court to make the initial appearance. Federal agents often arrest someone in the morning and bring them before a Magistrate Judge that afternoon. The Magistrate Judge will then determine whether to release the accused on pretrial release or permanently detained the defendant. Therefore, a federal bail hearing is considered one of the most important hearings in a federal criminal case.

Meeting with Pretrial Services

A defendant undergoes processing by the U.S. Marshals after they are arrested for a federal crime. After going through the booking process, an officer from U.S. Pretrial Services interviews the accused. Pretrial Services is a division of the court. It does not work for the government nor the defendant. The sole purpose of interviewing the accused is to determine whether they are fit to be released or remain permanently detained pending trial.

The interview is generally 20 minutes in length and it will consist of questions relating to the defendant's background, income, and prior criminal history. At the conclusion of the interview, the pretrial services officer will contact a third party to corroborate the defendant's representations.

Pretrial Services Report

Once the pretrial services officer speaks with the third party, they will then draft a bail report for the judge to review. The report is confidential and not given to the public. A copy is provided to the prosecutor and the defendant's attorney, however, they must return the report at the conclusion of the hearing.

A report will reflect what the defendant told the pretrial services agent. It will not consist of case facts or circumstances which led to the defendant's arrest. The topics, and what is generally reflected in the report, include:

  • Defendant's prior criminal history
  • Whether the defendant owns property
  • History of substance or alcohol abuse
  • Birthplace and current residence location
  • Prior and current employment and income
  • A threat to public safety or flight risk
  • The severity of the charge(s)
  • Education level

Recommendation from Pretrial Services

The report from pretrial services will conclude with their recommendation after considering the defendant's background. It will also partly be based on a defendant's ability to obtain the terms of release – i.e., the bond must be secured with $25,000 cash versus $100,000 cash. However, the judge does not have to agree with the bond recommendation from pretrial services.

Bonding Hearing

At the bail hearing, the judge will listen to both parties in the event there is no agreement/stipulation. The judge will consider the same factors used in the pretrial services report. At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge will make their decision based on arguments of the parties and consideration of the pretrial services report.

Types of Bonds

The following are the different types of bonds the judge may impose:

  • Personal recognizance
  • Unsecured Appearance bond
  • Appearance bond, with either:
    • Cash deposit, or
    • Affidavit of Surety Without Justification
    • Affidavit of Surety With Justification (full deeding of property)
  • Collateral Bond in Cash or Negotiable Securities

Conditions of Pretrial Release

Aside from granting bond, the judge may impose certain conditions of release, such as:

  • Participating in drug treatment at an outpatient or inpatient facility
  • Submit weekly, biweekly, or monthly drug testing
  • Impose a curfew requirement from 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m.
  • Install a GPS location monitor on your ankle
  • Prohibit communication(s) with other charged co-defendants

Re-litigating a Federal Bail Hearing

Once a judge issues a bond order, a defendant is unable to re-litigate bail unless there has been a change in circumstances. Moreover, a defendant may move to reopen a bail hearing if the defendant is able to locate additional sureties, or has more information to provide to the court that was not available or at the time of the initial hearing. For instance, a change in circumstance may include medical issues or finding an error in the information previously provided by the court.

Contact a Federal Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing federal criminal charges, then you must enlist the help of an experienced federal criminal defense attorney. Contact us today to schedule a free confidential consultation about your rights and defenses.

About the Author

John Rogers

*State Bar Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Law *Top 40 Under 40 by the National Trial Lawyers Association *Selected “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers Magazine *Federal Criminal Defense Representation Nationwide *Personalized Attention & 24/7 Accessibility


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