When a person is arrested for a new criminal charge in Florida, that person is entitled to a hearing to have a reasonable bond set for the case. Not everyone will get a bond. For instance, some charges are so serious that a judge might set no bond for a person. A person’s criminal history, ties to the community and other factors help determine what a reasonable bond should be for each case. Once a bond is set, the person can either pay the full bond amount to the jail or go to a bonding company and pay a fee (usually 10% of the bond amount) to be released from jail while the case is pending. As long as the person does not flee the jurisdiction and attends the required court dates, the person who put up the bond will get the money back at the end of the case (although sometimes the clerk will take out fines and costs if they are ordered as part of a sentence).
The rules are different for violation of probation cases. People with new cases have certain due process rights that allow those defendants to take positions and have hearings on issues related to probable cause for arrests and bonds. However, people who are on probation at the time of a new arrest do not have all of the same protections. For instance, if a person is on probation and is arrested for a new case, that person’s bond may be revoked based solely on that new arrest. The new arrest must be a “qualifying offense” under the Florida statute (generally any serious felony offense), but only the arrest is necessary for a revocation of the bond. Of course, an arrest is not evidence of guilt and everyone is innocent until proven guilty at that point. However, because people on probation in Florida do not have the same rights as others, an arrest for many felony crimes is all it takes for a prosecutor to file a motion to revoke bond and a judge to grant it.
Practically, it is a very bad idea to get arrested while on probation. Some judges will revoke a person’s bond based on just about any new arrest while on probation. Additionally, not only will the person have a new case to deal with, but will have a separate probation violation case. The new case has a higher standard of proof the state must meet- beyond a reasonable doubt. However, the probation violation case has a much lower standard- preponderance of the evidence, which basically means more likely than not. Prosecutors know that a new case may be weak from an evidentiary standpoint, but if the person is on probation, the state is much more likely to win at a probation violation hearing in front of a judge rather than a trial in front of a jury. This gives the state a lot of leverage, even with weaker new cases.
Procedurally, this bond issue often works as follows: A person on probation gets a new arrest. They are taken to jail and see a judge the next day to determine bond. Because the initial appearance date is so soon, the state and the judge do not often realize the defendant is on probation, and the judge orders a bond as he/she normally would. The defendant bonds out. A week or two later, the state realizes the defendant is on probation. Two things often happen at that point. First, a warrant for a violation of probation is often issues. This will result in another arrest and another bond hearing. Many judges do not give bonds for probation violation cases. Secondly, the prosecutor in the new case may file a motion to revoke the bond. This defendant may end up in jail with no bond. The money paid initially to bond the defendant out would have been wasted.