Federal Pre Trial Release in Florida’s Federal Criminal Courtrooms

The U.S. constitution makes pre-trial release, called bail or bond, a right. That right exists more in the law then for those arrested in South Florida and charged in federal court. U.S. District Courts are in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Federal courts are for cases and controversies of limited jurisdiction in civil matters and have exclusive jurisdictions for violations of federal criminal laws. The bulk of those arrested in Florida and brought before federal judges are drug importation and distribution charges (known as trafficking in Florida courts), immigration arrests, wire fraud, money laundering and an increasing number of federal arrests for violations of our Patriots Act (terrorist related charges). If you have been arrested and charged in a federal court the first judicial officer you’ll see is a U.S. Magistrate. Magistrate’s handle all bond, bail (pre-trial release) matters. In federal court you can be held in custody for three days simply on the request of the U.S. Attorneys’ Office. This is called pre-trial detention. The statute to read is U.S.C. 3142(f), the federal “first appearance” statute. For most your detention hearing is also the first appearance hearing. Magistrates in South Florida will rarely grant release on any condition if the charges involves drug trafficking in any amount more than person use amounts, weapons charges and charges brought under the Patriots Act. In the fall of 2010 a Boynton Beach Police Officer arrested by the U.S. and charged with drug trafficking was granted bail and fled to Brazil. As a result of that the Magistrates’ are ever more skeptical of granting any pre-trial release conditions, even though the right is embedded in the Constitution. Most defendants who are granted pre-trial release are able to do it because their South Florida Criminal defense attorney worked with the Assistant United States Attorney (the prosecutor in federal courts) and came before the Magistrate with an agreed set of conditions. If you are arrested and charged in Federal court you should insist on an experienced federal criminal lawyer from the day of your arrest.