What Happens at a Federal Bond Hearing?

At a federal bond hearing, the magistrate judge will determine if the defendant is entitled to a bond or pre-trial release in his case. In federal criminal cases the defendant is not automatically entitled to a bond, rather the determination rests with the magistrate judge.

Once an arrest is made, the defendant will meet with a pretrial services officer who will interview them and prepare a confidential report. This report will be presented to the magistrate judge, the prosecutor, as well as the defense attorney. In preparing this report, the pretrial services officer will ask the defendant about the following things:

  1. Employment history and wages;
  2. Amount of assets and bank accounts;
  3. Whether he owns or rents a home;
  4. Whether he owns any firearms;
  5. Whether he has a passport;
  6. Whether he is a US citizen;
  7. Any criminal history;
  8. Any history of drug or alcohol use;
  9. Any mental health issues;
  10. Any family members living in the area; and
  11. Names and contact information for immediate family or roommates.

The accused will also be asked to provide a urine screen for evidence of any drugs. The pretrial services will also contact the immediate family given during the pretrial interview. The magistrate judge will use this report, as well as the nature and severity of the offense charged to determine whether a bond will be granted. Any lies told to the pretrial services officer can be used against the accused in sentencing.

Typically bond hearings are conducted either the day of or the day after the arrest. During this hearing the judge will read the charges contained in the indictment, ask the defendant whether he pleads guilty, no contest, or not guilty, and then address the issue of a bond. Both the prosecutor and the defense attorney will make arguments as to what a bond should be or whether the defendant should be detained without one. The judge will then make a determination on whether a bond should be granted, or set the issue for a full bond hearing at a later date. At that hearing the defendant will be able to present evidence and testimony tending to show that they are not a danger to the community, and whether their appearance at later court dates can be ensured.

 Essentially the magistrate judge is trying to make a determination of whether the defendant can be released on bond and not pose a flight risk or be a danger to the community. Oftentimes the defendant can also offer property as security for a bond, such as equity in a house or land. A defendant can also offer to surrender their firearms to ensure that they get a bond. Defendants released on bond will usually be asked to report to pretrial services on a weekly or daily basis, and their travel is restricted to the federal district in which they have been charged with a crime.

If you have any questions about federal bond hearings please do not hesitate to contact us directly.