Can You Bail Out if Charged with a Federal Case?

This is a big question on many people's minds because if you do a little research and a little digging, you'll see that the bail system in federal is much different from the bail system in the state. Sometimes you can just be detained related to a federal criminal case.

Federal Bail and Pretrial Release

That means that they take you into custody, and you cannot bail out, and you will not be able to get out until the case is over.  Either you get a not guilty verdict, work out a deal, and then you're released from custody when you serve prison time or get probation.

You can get out on some bond conditions at the federal level, but you need a skilled federal criminal defense attorney to help you. 

Usually, what happens is that you get taken into custody and brought into federal court pretty quickly by the marshals.

Then the probation department of that particular courthouse will interview you and evaluate you to see if they can recommend that you get out on some bond conditions. Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers will cover this topic in greater detail below.

What Are the Factors Considered to Grant a Federal Defendant Bond?

In federal courts, cash bonds are not used. Pretrial detention without bond is pretty standard. Arguments between the federal prosecution and the defense about the appropriate amount or conditions of bail often necessitate a bond hearing. 

A federal bail hearing is also known as a detention or bond hearing. The factors for a pretrial release are determined by federal statute. 18 U.S.C. § 3142, enacted by the Bail Reform Act of 1984, gives a federal judge discretion to grant a defendant pretrial release.

Federal Bail Release

In federal criminal courts, a bond issue is not only setting a dollar amount. The primary factors for the judge to consider when addressing a bond are as follows:

  • risk to public safety, and
  • risk of flight by the defendant.

When federal defendants are released pending trial, they are either released upon:

  • 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 significant value that guarantees the defendant's return to court. 

If a defendant decides to flee prosecution, the sureties will forfeit the posted collateral to the government.  This means they provide a strong incentive for both the defendant and the sureties to make sure the defendant complies with their obligation to the federal court.

What is a Pretrial Services Report?

One crucial document federal judges rely on in making bail determinations is a report prepared by the pretrial services department in federal court. This report gives judges information about the defendants:

  • residency,
  • employment history,
  • connections to the local community

This report includes other factors that help the judge assess the individual defendant's public safety or flight risk.  In the federal court system, it's common for a defendant to be interviewed by pretrial services when preparing the report. After the judge determines that it is unfavorable bail to the defendant, there could still be an opportunity to revisit the issue. 

For example, any federal defendant that is initially detained without bond can request reconsideration of the bond decision by the judge who will ultimately decide the case. A United States magistrate judge makes the preliminary determination on bail. 

What is the Federal Process from Arrest to a Bail Hearing?

There are several steps between arrest and a federal trial. The federal criminal process is widely known for taking months or years to resolve cases. A federal bail hearing determines where a defendant will spend their time during this lengthy legal process, such as:

  • remanded to a federal prison facility, or
  • granted pretrial release from custody.

If a federal judge grants the defendant pretrial release, the bond amount will be determined at a federal bail hearing.

After a defendant is arrested for a federal crime, they are held in custody by the United States Marshals until their initial court hearing, called the “arraignment,” which usually occurs within three court days.

At this hearing, the prosecutor will read the criminal charges against them in open court, and then the defendant will enter a plea. Next up in the process is the federal bail hearing which can occur at the arraignment or scheduled for a later date.

What Are the Bond Conditions in Federal Cases?

Examples would be that you could have property, a family member or friend, or someone you're connected with can have a property, and they can use that property to post a bond.

Federal Bail Hearing

That's called a property bond.  So, let's say, for example, somebody had a property, and they had at least $100,000.00 of equity in that property; they could use that equity to post the bond. 

Basically, they'd be pledging their house or that part of the equity in the home over to the court, and if you did not show up to court and they couldn't get you, then they could foreclose on the property, take out the $100,000.00, and the court would get that. 

That's the incentive for the person to come back to court because every property being pledged would lose money related to that. Another way we get people out when it comes to federal criminal bond situations is we can do a signature bond.  That's basically where somebody could be the defendant or somebody else.

The judge orders and signs documentation indicating that if the defendant does not show back up for court, they would have to pay $25,000.00 to the court relating to a $25,000.00 signature bond. 

That happens a lot in federal criminal defense under the right circumstances.  That's not a big deal as long as the person shows up for court.  There's no money out of pocket to anybody. 

So, in that scenario, it's much better than a state situation where somebody posts a $25,000.00; in the state case, they have to pay anywhere from 5% to 10% of that money that they never get back; whereas, in the federal case, they never have to pay the $25,000.00 or any portion of it, unless the person doesn't show back up to court.

The Federal Criminal Bail Process

Suppose you're arrested for a federal case. In that case, the criminal bail process is essential, especially if you're a loved one of someone recently arrested and realize they will appear in federal court. You want to make sure that you get an attorney right away because that attorney will be able to give the person the best chance to get them out of custody.

The federal bail process differs significantly from the state bail process in that bail bondsmen are typically unused.  So, what you do in a federal case is appear in federal court, and your attorney will be there with you and argue your bail. 

Either you're going to get detained by the judge – if that happens, you will not be able to get out – or your attorney will be able to get you out on some bond conditions.

Signature Bond

Your attorney could make it so one of your family members signs a Signature Bond, and then you would promise the court a certain amount of money if you did not show up for court. 

For example, a $20,000.00 signature bond signed by your mother would take me that you would get, your mother would sign a promise to pay $20,000.00 if you didn't show up for future court dates, but as long as you show up, your mother would not have to pay any money. 

This is probably the easiest and best form of bail because no money is out of pocket, and most times, the defendant will come back, so the person who is the individual they call the surety would not have any money come out of their pocket. 

The flip side is that judges often won't agree to the signature bond, and prosecutors won't either because there's no assurance that the person will return.

Property Bond

Another form of bond is what is called a property bond.  That's where you or one of your family members has a property. 

Let's say there is a $100,000.00 property bond ordered by the judge, then that property would have to have at least $100,000.00 in equity, and then that equity would be tied up with the court or encumbered while the case is pending. 

If you didn't show up and fled the jurisdiction, every property would lose $100,000.00 in equity because of your non-appearance.  So, that's what is called a property bond.  It could be a family member.  It could be anyone that could put their property up for you to get you out.

Those are the main three things you're facing in the bail process.  Either you're being detained, and you can't get out.  There's some sort of signature bond or a combination of signature bonds utilized to get you out, or there's the property bond.  Those are the main things you're looking at.

Appearing in Federal Court

As far as the process goes, you will appear in federal court.  If you get detained, you could still have a chance with a new judge that you get assigned to file a motion to have your bond reconsidered. I often see that someone gets swooped up in federal court, appears, gets detained, and doesn't hire a private lawyer. 

They've got the public defender or some other lawyer appointed, and that lawyer doesn't do anything, and the person stays in custody. 

Then the family hires me.  We discuss whether or not they've got the means and whether it makes sense to try to bond the person out, and then I can file a motion for reconsideration of the original magistrate's decision to detain the person.

The probation department will prepare a report.  They'll talk to the available sureties, and then the Judge gets the message and sees all the known people so the person can get out.  They'll also run the person's criminal record in that pretrial services report for the judge. 

They'll see if the person has any failures to appear, and then, of course, I, as a defense attorney, will appear and try to argue to get the person out. 

If you or a loved one is charged with a federal case, you're trying to bail out and deal with the issue; you need somebody like me who's been doing this now for 30 years, handling federal cases nationwide. I know what it takes to get someone out of custody, and I know what it takes to defend your case successfully. 

Why Do You Need a Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer?

People can get out in a federal case in other ways, but those are probably the two most common ways.  The judge could also let the person out without having to post any bond, just that they promise to appear at all of the court dates and not violate any terms or conditions of their release.

So, there are ways to get out of a federal criminal case.  Your first move should be to hire an experienced federal criminal defense attorney.  I've been doing this for almost 30 years.  I worked for the prosecutors early in my career.  I worked for a superior court judge, and then in 1994, I started doing federal cases and helping people just like you.

Pick up the phone.  Make the call.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I stand at the ready to help you. The Hedding Law Firm is located in Los Angeles County, and we serve people across the state of California. We offer a free case consultation by phone or by filling out the contact form.

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