Bail Denied: When a Court Can Keep You Locked Up
Recently the son of Canada’s consul general was denied bail and ordered to remain in custody pending the resolution of his felony murder charges. Fifteen-year-old Marc Wabafiyebazu, is accused of participating as a lookout in a drug exchange that ended with his brother and an alleged drug dealer being shot and killed. Despite pleas from his attorney and assurances from his mother that the youth would return to Florida and answer the charges, the court felt Mr. Wabafiyebazu posed too great a flight risk and denied him bail.
Bail Hearings in Florida Criminal Cases
The U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment provides that neither the federal nor state governments can hold a criminal defendant in jail awaiting trial by requiring “excessive bail.” But there is no clear threshold separating “excessive” and “reasonable” bail. In other words, there is no court case saying that, in all cases, x dollars of bail is reasonable while x+1 dollars of bail is excessive. Instead, as Florida law recognizes, the amount of bail that is appropriate in any given case will vary. A bail determination hearing is used to discover what a reasonable amount of bail is for a given defendant.
When a court determines bail in Florida, it is to be guided by two overarching principles: the bail should be enough to assure the court that the defendant will appear at all future court hearings and that the community would be protected from the defendant. The thought is that while excessive bail is unconstitutional and too little bail would give the defendant no incentive to return to court or to avoid hurting others, an appropriate bail would encourage the defendant to show up in court when required and to keep him or her from engaging in criminal acts in the meantime.
How is a Reasonable Bail Determined?
Florida law further provides that courts are to consider a number of factors in determining what amount to require as bail, including:
- The nature of the present criminal charges;
- How strong the evidence is against the defendant;
- The defendant’s ties to the local community (family, employment, residence, etc.);
- Previous convictions and failures to appear;
- The nature and probability of danger to the community posed by the defendant;
- How the bail will be paid;
- Whether the defendant is currently being supervised on probation or parole;
- The street value of drugs involved in the present crime; and
- Any other relevant facts.
Judges are therefore given wide latitude in setting bail, and your release from custody could depend on how persuasively the facts of your situation are presented. This is why when you have been arrested your first call should be to an experienced criminal defense attorney like Jeff Weiner.
The law firm of Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. has represented hundreds of clients through each stage of the criminal process. Once you have been arrested, he can petition the court to review your bail and consider factors that are in your favor. Even the most hardened criminal is innocent of criminal charges until he or she is proven guilty; you should not have to remain locked up without having a judge consider the relevant circumstances of your case.