How to Get a Bond Reduction
UPDATED: February 20, 2013
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When defendants are advised that they are about to attend their bail hearing, many are eager to get a bail set so that they can then post a bond. Unfortunately, many are surprised when they are hit with a high or excessive bail. If a defendant cannot make bail, he may want to seek a bond reduction. Each state provides rules and procedures for obtaining a bail reduction; however, the general rule is that the burden on proving the need for a reduction is on the defendant.
Bond Reduction Steps
The bond reduction process begins with a simple motion. The motion should state the current bail amount, the nature of the charges, and a statement regarding the defendant’s inability to make bond. Many defendants will include prior findings of indigency, like a copy of the court’s order appointing counsel because of a defendant’s inability to pay for an attorney. The title of the motion will vary depending on the state’s rules of procedure. Some common titles include motion for bond reduction and writ of habeas corpus. Once the bond reduction motion is filed, some jurisdictions will automatically set the motion for a hearing. However, in other jurisdictions, the defendant is responsible for getting a setting for a hearing by contacting the court’s coordinator or secretary. Before obtaining a setting on his motion, a defendant should strategize about the type of evidence to introduce at the hearing.
Presentment of Evidence at Bond Reduction Hearing
The bond reduction hearing is not as formal as a jury trial. However, the same rules of etiquette, evidence, and procedure apply. A defendant can present evidence as long as it is in proper form and complies with rules of admission. Even though it is not as formal, a bond reduction hearing can have a significant impact on a defendant’s case. For example, if a defendant is charged with failing to register as a sex offender, and takes the stand at a hearing and talks about the new job he's had for the last three months, he may actually end up with more charges for failing to report the change in employment. A defendant is never required to give testimony against himself, but if he takes the stand, the defendant assumes the risk of potentially negative consequences on cross examination.
As such, a defendant should think carefully about the evidence and witnesses he wants and needs to present at a bond reduction hearing. Instead of the defendant taking the stand and opening up to harmful admissions, a defendant may request a relative or friend to testify on his behalf. The defendant could also introduce business records or copies of tax, payroll, or bank records to demonstrate the lack of funds to post the current bond. In some limited cases, a defendant may want to present evidence that the charges are not as severe as alleged in the indictment or complaint. As a defendant is gathering evidence to support the bond reduction motion, he should understand be basic requirements of qualifying for a bond reduction.
Bond Reduction Requirements
Inability to pay is only one element of a bond reduction motion and hearing. It is a significant factor, but many jurisdictions require a defendant to jump through additional hoops. For example, in Texas, a defendant is required to show that he has actually made an effort to post the current bond before the court can even consider a bond reduction. This threshold requirement can be met by testimony from a friend or relative regarding the number of bondsmen they have called in an attempt to make the current bond.
If a defendant is seeking a bond reduction because there has been a delay in indictment, then he should present some evidence regarding how long he has already been in custody without being formally charged. Texas will require a court to lower bail when a defendant has been held 90 days or more in jail without the return of an indictment. In exchange for a bond reduction, a defendant may offer to be subject to conditions, like electronic monitoring, to help the court feel more comfortable in reducing the bond and thereby enabling release from jail.
Ruling on the Motion
After the court receives evidence and information from the defendant and the prosecution, the court will balance a number of factors to decide whether or not to grant the motion for a bond reduction. Factors the court can consider include: the number of ties a defendant has to a community, criminal history of the defendant, the nature of the charges, the safety of the community, and the ability of the defendant to post bail. The court can reduce the bail and set conditions to insure the purposes of bail are met.
Consequences of Seeking a Bond Reduction
Every defendant wants a cheaper bond, especially in times of economic instability. Some defendants push their attorneys to file a bond reduction on the theory that the worst case scenario is the judge denying the reduction. A defendant should understand how the jurisdiction functions before filing a bond reduction. A judge may grant the motion and the defendant can move on peacefully. However, once a defendant files the bond reduction motion, the State may decide to file a motion to increase bond or add strict bond conditions.
Bond hearings often result in a defendant disclosing evidence to the state. Sometimes this disclosure can hurt a defendant on the prosecution side. At the very least, a defendant may have drawn unwanted attention. Once a prosecutor becomes more involved with a case, the more targeted a defendant’s case can become. For all of the perceived advantages, a bond reduction motion has its share of potential disadvantages.