In my experience judges grant most bond reduction motions. Even when judges deny bond reductions defendants are free to file subsequent motions for bond reduction. Having an attorney familiar with the presiding judge is a benefit for defendants seeking a bond reduction because judges have a substantial amount of latitude in determining what criteria to use. Therefore hiring an attorney who understands what the presiding judges’ priorities are is important.
Bond is to secure a defendant’s appearance at trial and may not be used as a punishment. Bond is typically set higher in cases with high minimum and maximum punishment ranges. Other factors include whether or not a defendant has shown up for court in the past, ties to the community, whether the offense is the type that threatens safety of the community if repeated, and the defendant’s ability to pay. In my experience, the factor that varies the most from judge to judge is to what extent the strength of the State’s case is taken into consideration. The strength of the State’s case is typically not taken into consideration in Texas courts, but the strength of the Government’s case is typically considered in federal court.
There is an art to bond reduction hearings. Your attorney should know whether or not to call witnesses, and if so who. Judges’ attitudes about which facts are relevant, and which facts are the most relevant, varies in bond reductions hearings even more than in the initial decision to set the amount of bond. A judge hearing a bond reduction motion will hear more evidence than was presented when bond was set. Although the facts surrounding the offense are obviously relevant in determining the bond amount, many courts do not consider the facts surrounding the alleged offense unless the defense inadvertently “opens the door” to such evidence. Therefore a defendant may be able to take the stand and testify about his financial condition, ties to the community, and promise to appear for court settings without being asked about the offense he is accused of. Judges are free to determine whether or not they will allow the prosecution to cross examine a defendant about the actual offense if he takes the stand and judicial attitudes vary from county to county, judge to judge, and between the state and federal systems. This attitude varies by offense and having an attorney that knows whether or not the judge will allow the prosecution to cross examine the defendant on the underlying facts of a criminal case at a bond reduction hearing, and if so to what extent, is critical to success at trial.
Additionally, bond reduction hearings are often not in front of the judge who set the original bond amount and the rules of evidence don’t apply to bond reductions. Bond reduction motions are short considering you or your loved one’s freedom is at stake and judges tend to rule on these motions faster than they do trials, sentencing, or suppression motions. Therefore ambiance is more important than in some other hearings. Voice, tone, inflection, demeanor, and imagery affect everyone’s decision making process, even judges. Your attorney needs to understand how your judge reacts to these types of atmospherics.
Texas law requires that a judge set bond when the state attempts to revoke a person’s deferred adjudication community supervision, but bond is not required for a probation revocation or a parole revocation. This is because when a person is placed on deferred adjudication they have not technically been found guilty. However, many counties set bond for probation revocations and defendant’s accused of violating their parole are increasingly granted supervised release while their revocation is pending. For example, Taylor, Coleman, and Callahan counties typically set “no bonds” for probation revocations and the district judge of Nolan, Fisher, and Mitchell counties typically sets a bond for probation revocations.
I’ve noticed a recent positive change involving my clients accused of violating their parole. From 2004 through 2014 I saw few occasions where blue warrants were lifted, however since 2015 lifting blue warrants following the preliminary parole hearing has become the norm. In my opinion, this means that parolees accused of violating their parole should not waive their preliminary hearing.
Typically Federal Courts do not set bond. They either release a defendant on conditions of release or detain. Bail bondsmen are typically not involved in the federal system. Whether or not the federal government will ask the Court for pretrial detention depends on many of the same factors state court judges consider. Federal Courts also consider the likelihood that a defendant will show up to trial and the safety of the community and assume that defendants facing a substantial amount of time upon conviction are less likely to show up to trial. However, in a federal case the sentence a defendant is potentially facing is determined by the federal sentencing guidelines. If a defendants’ guide line punishment range is high for the crime they are accused of the United States Attorney’s Office is more likely to ask the Court for pre-trial detention. However, just like in state court Federal Courts often do not give the prosecution everything they ask for. Defendants facing charges are frequently released on conditions of release over the Government’s objection.
When a defendant is charged in several counties at the same time it’s important to ensure that bond is posted for all counties at the same time. This ensures that if a defendant is eventually confined on the offenses that he or she receives credit for back time. Back time is also an important consideration if a defendant gets rearrested while a case is pending. If a defendant is on bond on some offenses, but not others he may not receive back time credit for all of the offenses he is on bond for. Additionally, whether or not a defendant is confined is an important factor in plea negotiations. Sometimes incarcerated defendants get better plea offers, and sometimes bonding out is essential to success at a trial or at a sentencing hearing. Your attorney must be experienced enough to know whether or not posting bond is the best decision.