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Emergency Bond Hearings in Tampa, FL

Contact an attorney at the Sammis Law Firm to discuss an emergency bond hearing for a case in Tampa, Hillsborough County, FL, or one of the surrounding counties in the greater Tampa Bay area. The purpose of setting bail is to ensure the defendant comes to court for trial and any required pre-trial court dates.

An experienced criminal defense attorney can file a "Motion to Reduce Bond." In many cases, the purpose of the bond motion is to show the court that the defendant's ties to the community and the circumstances of the case make it unlikely that the defendant would flee the jurisdiction or be a danger to the community. 

The motion allows the court to set a substantially lower bond or release the defendant on his signature or own recognizance (often called the "OR" bond or the "ROR" bond).

In many of these cases, the defendant's family saves money by hiring the attorney to file the motion to reduce bond. Getting the bond reduced is often less expensive than posting an unreasonably high bond even when you account for the attorney fees.

Even in those cases in which the defendant is being held without bond, an experienced attorney can often convince the court that although the court is allowed to hold the defendant without setting bond, under the facts of that particular case, the court should set a reasonable bond.


Common Questions about Bond Reductions

At the beginning of the case, the getting the bail or bond amount reduced is often the most important issue in the case. Call us to discuss any of the following issues:

  • You know that a warrant has been issued for your arrest, but you do not know the amount of bond that you will have to post after you are arrested on the warrant;
  • You "Failed to Appear" after receiving notice of your next court date, and the court issued a "no bond" warrant for your arrest and an attorney might be able to get the arrest warrant lifted;
  • The court revoked your bond because you are accused of committing a new offense while free on bail awaiting trial on another charge;
  • You have been arrested for a capital felony offense and are being held with no bond, or with an unreasonably high bond;
  • You have "no bond" because you were arrested on a Violation of Probation (VOP) warrant; or
  • The court attached a "Nebbia Hold or Nebia Hearing" requirement to your bond, typically required for many drug trafficking and white-collar crimes.

Under any of these circumstances, a criminal defense attorney experienced in arguing bail bond reduction hearings will be able to represent you at your first appearance hearing, or at a subsequent emergency bond hearing.

Hiring an experienced attorney for the bond hearing early in your case to fight for your release is critical. Having your bail or bond reduced can save you and your family thousands of dollars and can speed up your release from custody.


Substituting a Cash Bond for a Surety Bond

Did you know that you can convert a cash bond to a surety bond so that the entire cash bond amount can be refunded to you? Under Florida Statute Section F.S. 903.18, "[a]ny cash bond may be substituted for a surety bond anytime before a breach of bond." 

The statute allows you to substitute (or switch out) the cash bond for a surty bond. If you do this a bail-bond company would take on your liability (for a fee) and your money will be refunded. Many people decide to secure the bond with a surety company over remaining with the cash bond so that they can free up that money to retain an attorney, pay restitution, or pay unexpected bills.


Factors Considered by the Court To Lower Bond / Reduce Bond

In determining bond, the court will consider the following factors:

  1. the financial circumstances of the defendant;
  2. the defendant's address and ties to the community;
  3. the defendant's occupation and employment history;
  4. the defendant's family and relatives that live in the community;
  5. the extent and nature of any criminal history of the defendant; and
  6. the nature of the alleged offense.

Posting Bond after an Arrest for Criminal Charges in Florida

Once the bail amount has been set by the court, there are two methods of posting bail:

  • Cash Bond - In order to post a cash bond, the entire amount of the bond must be posted in cash or a cashiers check with the sheriff's office in Hillsborough County. At the conclusion of the case, the entire amount of the cash bond (less any fines or court costs imposed by the court if the defendant enters a plea or is found guilty) is returned to the individual that posted the bond. If the person arrested fails to appear in court, then the entire bond will be forfeited.
  • Surety Bond - To post bond, a surety or bail bonding company can post a written guarantee called a bail bond. In exchange for posting the bail bond, the bail bonding company typically charges a bond premium fee which is 10% of the bail bond's total amount. The bail bondsman may also require collateral that equals the bail bond's total amount. Therefore, if the bond is set at $25,000.00, an individual might enter into a contract with the bail bonding company to pay a fee of $2,500.00, plus post collateral for the entire $25,000.00.

Under What Circumstances Can the Court Revoke my Bond?

Under Florida Statute Section 903.047, the defendant must comply with certain conditions of release imposed by the Court. As long as the conditions of pre-trial release are reasonable, the court can set certain special conditions of release. The standard conditions typically include:

  • not engaging in criminal activity; or
  • not contacting the victim either directly or through a third party.

When a defendant violates the conditions of release, then Florida law allows the court to revoke the bond and hold the person without bond under certain circumstances. The hearing to revoke bond can occur at first appearance court when the Defendant comes before the court on new charges, and the judge discovers that the Defendant also has pending charges.

Florida law provides that a finding of probable cause which can be determined by the Judge from the criminal report affidavit or probable cause affidavit, by itself, is sufficient to revoke bond on the pending case.

Short of a new arrest, the court may also revoke bond on a motion from the State that alleges that the Defendant violated a condition of pre-trial release. The prosecutor with the State Attorney's Office carries the burden of proof at the hearing. See F.S. 907.041 and Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.132.

If 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" then the court can revoke the bond at the hearing.


What Happens at First Appearance Court After an Arrest?

Hiring an attorney before your first appearance is critical. At first appearance, the court will set the special conditions of your pretrial release. Bond is available for anyone charged with a crime, except that the court can deny bond to a person charged with a crime punishable by life in prison or the death penalty when proof of guilt is evident.

In most cases, other than domestic violence cases, the accused comes into the first appearance hearing with a bond that has already been set from a standard bond schedule. If the accused was arrested on an arrest warrant, then the judge who signed the warrant has usually already set a bond amount, although that amount can be reviewed at first appearance.


First Appearance Court before Judge Margaret Taylor

The standard bond schedule or bond amount set on the warrant can be either raised or lowered at first appearance. The defendant is brought before the court for a First Appearance (or Advisory Hearing) within 24 hours of the arrest. In Hillsborough County, the first appearance bail bond hearings are held in Division "O."  Judge Margaret Taylor presides over first appearance / emergency court.

For Hillsborough County, the first appearance hearing is electronically recorded. Division "O" is also referred to a "Video Court" because the defendants are brought before the court via live video camera from the jail, while the Judge, Prosecutor, and Defense Attorney appear in the courtroom.

A privately retained attorney can argue for a zero dollar bond, or an ROR bond that allows you to be released on your own recognizance just by signing a promise to return to court (also called a signature bond) instead of posting a bond to secure your appearance in court to answer the charges against you.


Special Procedures for Bond Hearings in Hillsborough County, FL

Under the administrative procedures for appeals in Hillsborough County (see Administrative Order S-2016-062, effective December 20, 2016), in all instances where the criminal defense counsel seeks either the reduction of bond or release on recognizance, defense counsel will contact the assistant state attorney assigned to the case or that attorney’s immediate supervisor.

If the criminal defense attorney and the prosecutor are able to stipulate to the conditions of a defendant’s release, such stipulation will be reduced to writing and delivered to the office of the presiding judge for consideration and approval. If the presiding judge is not available, the stipulation will be presented to the administrative judge of the Circuit Criminal Division or the administrative judge’s designee for consideration and approval.

When the prosecutor and criminal defense attorney are unable to stipulate to the conditions of a defendant’s release, defense counsel may schedule a hearing with the presiding judge and file an application for modification of bail with notice of hearing in accordance with Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.131(d)(2). In cases involving an alleged violation of probation (VOP), applications for modification of bail will be submitted to the judge assigned to the division in which the alleged violation is pending or scheduled.

Applications for modification of bail in such cases will not be heard at first appearance or in Division “O” without the specific concurrence of the judge assigned the violation, or in that judge’s absence, the administrative judge of the Circuit Criminal Division, an associate administrative judge or the chief judge. If defense counsel schedules a hearing for the reduction of bond or release on recognizance, defense counsel will notify the defendant’s probation officer of the Scheduled hearing so that probation information can be made available for the hearing.


First Appearance Bonds in Domestic Violence Cases

Under Florida law, when a person is accused of any act of domestic violence, including domestic battery, domestic assault, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, violation of a protective order or restraining order, stalking or aggravated stalking, the defendant must be held in jail until the defendant is brought before the judge at first appearance.

In order words, the defendant is not entitled to bond out prior to the first appearance court date according to a standard bond schedule amount. At first appearance, the court will then set a bond amount and impose other conditions of released aimed at protecting the safety of the alleged victim, the alleged victim's children, and any other person that might be in danger after the defendant's arrest.

The court will usually impose special conditions of bond including a "no contact" provision which will prevent the accused from returning to his house, or seeing his children until further order of the court. If the alleged victim also appears in court to ask the court not to impose the "no contact" condition, the judge will usually agree and instead impose a no violent contact provision while the case is pending.

Likewise, if the alleged victim wishes to have contact after the initial first appearance hearing, an experienced attorney can put the case back before the judge on a motion to modify bond conditions to eliminate the no bond condition. Never violated the "no contact provision" because it can result in your arrest and being held with no bond until your case is resolved.


Scheduling an Emergency Bail Hearing After First Appearance

If you have been arrested for any criminal offense, you are entitled to an emergency bond hearing, which can usually be scheduled within two business days. Even if you are being held on a "no bond" warrant, that does not mean that you are not eligible for bond after an emergency bond hearing.

In Hillsborough County, after your arrest the State Attorney's Office typically takes 21 days to decide whether to file charges against you or not. This stage of the case is cased the Pre-File Stage. During this time period, pre-file bond hearing are held in Division "O" or video court. Hillsborough County uses a uniform bond schedule.

At the Sammis Law Firm, we represent clients in emergency bond hearings, or bond reduction hearings in Hillsborough County and the surrounding areas. We also represent clients in bond hearings in Pinellas County. Contact a Tampa criminal defense attorney today to discuss your bail bond issue by calling 813-250-0500.


Resources for Issues Related to Bond

Constitutional Protections Against Excessive Bail and Other Pre-Trial Release Issues - GPO Access Article discusses the history of the Eighth Amendment, including a discussion about the evolution of the right to bail, challenges for excessive bail, and the pre-trial detention of juveniles.


This article was last updated on Friday, May 26, 2017.