The Federal Bail Bond System
Federal bail bonds operate in much the same way that other bonds work. Money or collateral is presented to the court for a defendant who is awaiting trial after arraignment. The defendant is then allowed to leave the federal detention center and live normally. Some judges might place conditions of release on the individual that state the person cannot travel or cannot contact certain people. The defendant must be present and on time at every court appearance until the trial has ended. Failure to do so means the federal courts will seize the cash or assets used to secure the bond. That money is not normally returned. The collateral or cash will not be touched if the rules are followed and the defendant makes all court appearances. The bond is dissolved when the trial ends.
Differences with Commercial Bail Bonds
Although the basic purpose and framework for federal bail bonds seems familiar, there are actually a number of significant difference from what people are used to with commercial bail bonds at the state and county level. The federal system is stricter, slower and less trusting. You should know the main differences:
- It Can Take Much Longer
- No Set Bail Schedules
- Full Collateral Is Required
- Nebbia Hearings
- Breaking the Conditions of Release Can Lead To Forfeiture
The first difference is that it can take a long time to get a federal bail bond. There are many steps involved in securing a bail bond at the federal level. You might spend anywhere from a week to a month trying to get the bail bond. It can even take days to have the defendant released from the detention center after the bond is approved. This makes the federal bail bond process less convenient.
A major difference is that there are no set bail schedules for federal bail bonds. A schedule is a state or county list of offenses and the bail amounts that every person arrested for those crimes needs to pay. Federal bail amounts are completely arbitrary. The judge decides whether bail is necessary. The judge also decides the amount of the bail bond based on the offense and personal opinions. This means some bail bonds might be exceptionally high for no apparent reason.
Another prime difference is that full collateral is required from the start. You are not able to pay just a percentage or a small amount to get a federal defendant released. You must have enough money and assets to cover the entire cost of the bail bond. If you do not have the full amount available, then the person remains in custody.
The most glaring difference is that you must go through a Nebbia hearing to prove you have the collateral necessary. You are basically a defendant trying to prove you can secure the bail bond. The Nebbia hearing also forces you to prove that the collateral or cash you are presenting was not gained through illegal activities. The hearing can take a long time to complete.
A final difference is that breaking the conditions of release can lead to forfeiture of a federal bail bond. If a person is ordered not to travel or to avoid contact with a person and the defendant breaks that condition, then the court is free to start forfeiture. This means the collateral and cash will be seized and the defendant placed back in detention.