I am an attorney who represents people being prosecuted for federal crimes; my office is here in Atlanta, Georgia but I handle matters in federal courts all around the United States. Today I am working on two cases where we are fighting with the prosecution over the conditions under which my clients are release from custody while the case moves forward. As many people know, being released is sometimes called being out “on bail” or “on bond.” Being released means the person gets out of jail after an initial arrest and is allowed to live and work at home while still defending against the federal criminal case.
The current law on being out on bond stems from a 1984 Act which was part of a huge Crime Bill that year. The part of the law regarding pretrial release was called the “Bail Reform Act of 1984.” That law now allows a Judge to hold or “detain” a criminal Defendant with no bail at all if the Court determines that the person is either a “danger to the community” or a “risk of flight.”
In several of my current cases I got my client released on bond, but am still tussling with the prosecutors over some of the conditions imposed on my clients during their time out on bail. This is somewhat common. We get our client released at the beginning of the case by agreeing to some rather stringent and strict conditions. As the case drags on we try to convince prosecutors (and the Court) that the harsh condition is no longer needed months and sometimes years after the person was originally released on bail.
Travel is often a big issue, especially for some of our clients who operate businesses. Generally, these clients need permission from a “Pretrial Officer” before they can travel. Other times, the permission can only be granted by a Judge. Either way, I always try to fashion an agreement with the prosecutor before we approach the person with the final say-so on my client’s travel.
Another condition we often fight about is contact between our client and others in the case. Generally it is very unwise to let the accused person have any contact with witnesses or other people who are charged in the case. However, sometimes those witnesses and co-Defendants are family members or co-workers. These situations require a lot of negotiation and evaluation so as to do the best we can for our client while still accounting for the Judge’s concerns.
A third issue relates to a criminal defendant’s employment while out on bail or bond. Some Judges restrict the Defendant’s work so that he or she is no longer involved in the business or field from which the criminal charges arose.
Being out on bond is obviously far better than being in jail while a federal criminal case moves forward. However, it often means that the federal criminal defense lawyer needs to be ready to do a lot more than just read the discovery and prepare pretrial motions. When selecting a lawyer to represent you or a family member, remember that working on the bond conditions is also a large part of what the attorney might need to do.