What Is the Difference Between Bail and a Bond in Florida?

If you know anything about criminal cases, you’ve likely heard the terms bail and bond. Some people even use the words interchangeably.

While both concepts involve a financial pledge to return to court, they are not the same. In this post, an experienced Florida criminal defense lawyer explains the differences and covers what you need to know if you are arrested for a crime.

What Is Bail?

Trials don’t happen immediately after an arrest. In some cases, you must remain in jail until your court date. In other cases, a judge will release you from custody to await trial at home.

To ensure that you return for the court hearings and trial, you have to pay money or pledge property as a security deposit. This deposit is your bail. If you fail to appear for your court date, you forfeit the bail amount.

If you follow the terms of bail and return for trial, the court will refund your money. However, the court can also use bail funds to pay outstanding fines, court costs, and victim restitution. 

How Judges Determine Bail Amounts

Judges have leeway when setting the amount of bail. They may consider the following factors when making their decisions:

  • The criminal charge 
  • The defendant’s prior record and past conduct
  • The defendant’s previous bonds and/or failures to appear
  • The defendant’s financial resources 
  • The defendant’s ties to the community, including local family, employment, and residence
  • The strength of evidence against the defendant
  • Outstanding warrants against the defendant
  • Whether the release poses a danger to the community 
  • Whether the defendant is likely to flee

A criminal defense attorney in Florida can ask for a lower bail based on favorable factors.

What Are Bonds?

Not everyone has the money or property to post bail. If you can’t borrow it from friends or family, what do you do? Your best option may be to work with a bondsman or a bonding company.

In these cases, you pay the bond company a fee, and they assure the court that they will pay bail on your behalf. This surety is a bond. Depending on your bonding agent, you may have to pay the full amount, or you may be able to make a down payment and pay off the balance later.

Types of Bonds

  • Cash bond: The defendant pays the full bail amount to the bondsman in cash, cashier’s check, or money order. If you don’t appear in court, you will lose the entire deposit.
  • Surety bond: An agent posts the entire bail amount in exchange for a percentage of the total, such as 10%. If you don’t show up, the bondsman is financially responsible for the full amount.
  • Property bond: The defendant pledges assets like a house or car to secure the bond. If you don’t appear in court, you may lose your property.
  • Immigration bond: If you are a non-US citizen facing a criminal charge and in the custody of immigration authorities, an immigration bond can secure your temporary release. 
  • Federal bond: If you are facing a federal criminal charge — such as drug trafficking, mail fraud, or tax evasion — you must post a federal bond for release.

Need Help After an Arrest? Contact a Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you need legal representation for criminal defense in Florida, contact Michael White, P.A., today. As a criminal defense lawyer serving Florida, Michael White can help protect your legal rights and explain your options after an arrest. Call 954-270-0769 for a free consultation with an experienced Florida lawyer for criminal cases.

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After several years as a prosecutor and General Counsel for the Broward County Police Benevolence Association (PBA), Michael White started his own practice focused on protecting individuals accused of crimes.

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