What Factors Cause the Denial of Bail in Federal Criminal Cases?
Bail is an essential component of the U.S. judicial system, designed to ensure the accused's appearance at future court proceedings while allowing them to remain free until trial.
Its primary purpose is not to punish the accused but to protect the community and maintain the integrity of the judicial process. However, being granted pretrial release on bail is not a guarantee, particularly not in federal criminal cases.
Bail is the release of someone following an arrest upon their promise to appear in subsequent judicial criminal court proceedings. A defendant could be denied bail if they cannot satisfy the conditions for release.
Someone could also be denied bail if the judge or magistrate concludes that no amount of security or a set of conditions is sufficient to ensure public safety or the defendant's later appearance in court.
When arrested after being charged with a federal crime, the first appearance is before a federal magistrate judge, where they will be presented with the complaint or indictment that details the charges against them.
Suppose they do not already have a private attorney representing them. In that case, they will be appointed a federal public defender, who will review the constitutional and statutory rights that the arrestee enjoys and discuss several threshold issues.
In many situations, a federal judge may deny bail entirely or set it so high that a defendant cannot meet it. Let's discuss how bail might be denied in a federal criminal case and how you can improve your chances of pretrial release.
The Bail Reform Act of 1984
We must discuss the Bail Reform Act of 1984 before we can faithfully address the question of bail in federal cases. This landmark legislation profoundly impacts how judges decide who is granted pretrial release and who is not.
It dramatically reshaped the bail process in federal criminal cases by repealing the Bail Reform Act of 1966 and setting forth new bail procedures, which are now embodied in Title 18, Chapter 207 of the U.S. Code, Sections 3141-3156.
One of the most notable aspects of the Bail Reform Act of 1984 is its authorization of preventive detention. This provision allows for the pretrial incarceration of a defendant if there is a belief that the person will endanger the community's safety if released on bail.
This was a departure from previous legislation, which focused solely on flight risk as grounds for denying bail.
When Can Bail Be Denied?
Based on the Bail Reform Act and other possible factors, bail may generally be denied if a defendant is determined to be a flight risk or a danger to the community. Let's look at specific examples of when a federal judge may lawfully deny bail and enforce pretrial detention until your trial occurs.
Bail can be denied if the court perceives the defendant as a flight risk. This perception could stem from the accused's financial resources, ties to the community (or lack thereof), or a previous record of failing to appear in court.
Charged with a Particularly Violent Crime
If the accused is charged with a particularly violent crime, the judge may determine this as evidence of a potential threat to the community.
Charged with a Terrorism-Related Offense
The accused is almost always denied bail if charged with a terrorism-related offense. This is because their release potentially poses an extreme threat to public safety and national security.
Charged with a Crime Punishable by Death or Life Imprisonment
Crimes punishable by death or life imprisonment are grave. The court may deem that the defendant poses an extreme threat to the public and should not have access to pretrial release.
Certain Drug-Related Charges
Being charged with certain drug crimes for which the maximum penalty is more significant than ten years can make a defendant ineligible for release on bail.
Multiple Prior Convictions
The defendant's criminal history, especially involving multiple felony offenses, can influence the decision to deny bail.
Violation of Probation or Parole
Defendants who commit a crime while on probation or parole are less likely to be granted bail since they have already demonstrated a disregard for the law.
Risk of Obstruction of Justice
Bail can be denied if there's a risk that the defendant might try to obstruct justice, for example, by destroying evidence or intimidating jurors.
Risk of Witness Tampering
A judge may deny bail if there is a credible belief that the accused might attempt to influence, intimidate, or threaten witnesses to keep them from testifying.
These are among the primary factors that can lead to the denial of bail in federal criminal cases. Still, it is not an exhaustive list; individual judges can also make their own determinations based on other criteria.
What Are the Related Federal Laws?
18 U.S. Code Chapter 207 Release and Detention Pending Judicial Proceedings has several federal statutes related to bail in federal criminal cases, including the following:
- 18 U.S.C. 3141 - Release and detention authority generally;
- 18 U.S.C. 1342 - Release or detention of a defendant pending trial;
- 18 U.S.C. 3143 - Release or detention pending sentence or appeal;
- 18 U.S.C. 3144 - Release or detention of a material witness;
- 18 U.S.C. 3145 - Review and appeal of a release or detention order;
- 18 U.S.C. 3146 - Penalty for failure to appear;
- 18 U.S.C. 3147 - Penalty for an offense committed while on release;
- 18 U.S.C. 3148 - Sanctions for violation of a release condition;
- 18 U.S.C. 3149 - Surrender of an offender by a surety;
- 18 U.S.C. 3150 - Applicability to a case removed from a state court;
- 18 U.S.C. 3151 - Refund of forfeited bail;
- 18 U.S.C. 3152 - Establishment of pretrial services;
- 18 U.S.C. 3153 - Organization and administration of pretrial services;
- 18 U.S.C. 3154 - Functions and powers relating to pretrial services;
- 18 U.S.C. 3155 - Annual reports;
- 18 U.S.C. 3156 – Definitions.
What Are Some Tips for Improving Your Chances of Release on Bail?
If you're a defendant in a federal criminal case, especially one involving serious charges, you may naturally have concerns about whether the judge will deny you bail. Below are some strategies that may improve your chances of being offered pretrial release:
- Hire a Skilled Attorney: A skilled federal defense attorney can effectively argue for your release on bail, challenge the prosecution's arguments, and present evidence in your favor.
- Demonstrate Ties to the Community: Show that you have strong connections to the community, such as steady employment, family ties, or involvement in local organizations. This can help prove that you're not a flight risk.
- Show Evidence of Employment or Stable Living Situation: Providing proof of employment or a stable residence can reflect positively on you, demonstrating responsibility and reliability.
- Show Willingness to Comply with Bail Conditions: Express your willingness to abide by the stipulations of a conditional release, which could include travel restrictions, surrendering your passport, regular check-ins with law enforcement, or drug testing.
- Provide Character References: Letters from reputable people who can vouch for your character can be helpful. These might come from employers, religious leaders, or community leaders.
- Be Honest and Cooperative: Be truthful with your attorney about all aspects of your situation. Cooperation with the court also demonstrates respect for the law, which can positively influence the judge's decision.
We provide legal representation across the United States on federal criminal matters. Eisner Gorin LLP has offices in Los Angeles, California.