We were able to secure another victory at a bond reduction hearing this week.
Drug Trafficking Charges
Our client, who was charged with Trafficking in Illegal Drugs, was left to sit in county jail on a $500,000 bond. However, after he retained a criminal defense attorney from the Law Offices of Adam R. Banner, our firm was able to file a motion for bond reduction and litigate the amount down to $40,000. The client is now out on bail, and he will be able to assist us in a greater capacity with the development of his defense.
Bond reduction motions (sometimes referred to as "bail reduction" or "bail bond reduction" motions) are a delicate issue in Oklahoma. I have clients regularly complain about the bond that they are currently sitting on, and consistently ask me if and when they will be able to get their bond lowered. The fact of the matter though, is that bond issues are not handled the same way in every county in Oklahoma.
Some counties, such as Oklahoma County and Tulsa County, have a set bond schedule. As such, when I defendant is charged with a crime, the bond is set according to the schedule. Even still though, there are certain charges that are not covered by the schedule. Specifically, many homicide charges do not even allow for bond. Other charges, such as domestic abuse, will not have a bond set until and unless the defendant appears at his or her arraignment. At that time, the bond will be set by the judge conducting the arraignment.
The majority of counties in Oklahoma however, do not have a set bond schedule. As such, the bond is set by the judge and is based on the recommendation of the prosecution and the judge's opinion of the allegations and other factors.
In either situation, the defendant can hire an attorney to petition the court to set the bond at a lower amount. When this happens, there are various factors that the judge will take into consideration. Those factors include the following:
- the seriousness of the crime charged against the defendant;
- the apparent likelihood of conviction and the extent of the punishment prescribed by the Legislature;
- the defendant's criminal record, if any, and previous record on bail, if any;
- his reputation and mental condition;
- the length of his residence in the community;
- his family ties and relationships;
- his employment status, record of employment and his financial condition;
- the identity of responsible members of the community who would vouch for the defendant's reliability; and
- any other factors indicating the defendant's mode of life, or ties to the community bearing on the risk of failure to appear.
Bond is not meant to be a punitive tool for the court to employ in punishing the defendant. The two purposes of bond are to secure the defendant's appearance at court and to protect the safety of the public. Consequently, any bond amount that is more than necessary to secure these two ends is considered excessive. Excessive bond is prohibited.
There are a few different types of bond that anyone associated with a criminal case should be aware of. In Oklahoma, a defendant may have the opportunity for a cash bond, a surety bond, or a recognizance bond.
A cash bond is exactly what the name implies: it is a bond that can be met only by giving cash money to the court clerk's office. Sometimes, a cash bond will be instated when a defendant owes a certain amount for restitution or fines and fees, and the court will set the cash bond in the amount that is necessary to cover the balance owed so that the defendant cannot be released until he or she pays the amount owed in full.
A surety bond is a bond that is covered by a licensed bondsman. Usually, a bondsman will require the defendant to pay him or her somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-15% of the amount owed for the surety bond before the bondsman will sign off on the bond. Once the bondsman signs off on the bond, the bondsman then becomes financially responsible for the entire amount of the surety bond in the event that the defendant fails to appear for his or her scheduled court appearances. If that happens, you may see the bondsman employ a bounty hunter to find the defendant and bring him or her before the court.
With both a cash bond and a surety bond, if the defendant fails to appear for court, the court will issue a bond forfeiture and alias warrant (BFAW) for the individual. When this happens, a new warrant is issues for the defendant, and the money that was previously put up to secure the defendant's release will be forfeited to the state. It is possible to have the bond reinstated if there is a valid reason for the defendant's failure to appear and the bondsman agrees to stay on the surety bond.
A recognizance bond may be referred to as an OR bond (own recognizance) or a PR bond (personal recognizance). Both terms more or less describe a situation in which the court releases the defendant from custody on his or her word that he or she will show up for court at the scheduled time and date. Recognizance bonds are rare, because the court has to extend a great deal of faith in the defendant. Sometimes these bonds will only be employed for medical reasons or other special circumstances. If the defendant does not show up on his or her own recognizance, he or she will not be out any money, but they will likely have to post either a cash bond or a surety bond once they are apprehended.
Criminal defendants and their family members have to also realize that in some situations, the amount of money the state will require before it releases someone from incarceration is not something that can be negotiated on the fly. Any attorney can merely appear in front of a judge and request that the bond be lowered, but unless the judge is presented with facts and possibly supporting documentation to substantiate the attorney's request, it is unlikely that the bond will be lowered.
That is why it is so important to hire an attorney that will actually file a motion to reduce bond that outlines the reasons and justifications for lowering the amount. Only then will you be able to rest assured that you have put yourself (or your family member) in the best possible position to succeed. If you or a loved one is faced with what you feel is a high bond amount, we may be able to help. You need to speak with a bond reduction attorney, and you can contact one by clicking here or calling 405.778.4800.