Has a loved one or friend been arrested in Broward County, Florida? Are you under investigation and about to be arrested? If so, you should consult a Fort Lauderdale bail bonds attorney. First and foremost, you need to understand what bond is, how bond works, and what do if your bond is too high or is not automatically set due to the nature of the crime.
Under Florida Law, a person who has been arrest must be brought before a judge within 24 hours. This is referred to as “Magistrate Court” and it exists to prevent people from being arrested for literally no reason and forgotten about. At a minimum, a magistrate judge will determine if there is enough of a “bare bones” allegation to justify your arrest and initial loss of freedom.
Where is Magistrate Court?
As a Fort Lauderdale bail bonds attorney, I am conveniently situated in the heart of South Florida. This enables us to provide legal counsel and representation to people in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach counties and the surrounding areas.
In Broward County, Magistrate Court is held on the 2nd Floor of the Main Courthouse located in downtown Fort Lauderdale. This is the courthouse next to the Broward County Main Jail.
In Palm Beach County, Magistrate Court is held at the courthouse located off Gun Club Road near downtown Palm Beach. Like its Broward counterpart, this courthouse is located next to the Palm Beach Main Jail – also known as Gun Club.
In Miami, Magistrate Court is held in the Richard E. Gerstein Criminal Justice Building near downtown Miami.
What Happens at Magistrate Court?
Magistrate Court exists for one reason and one reason only – TO PROTECT YOUR LIBERTY!
At magistrate court, a judge will briefly review the prosecutor’s case to determine if there is a legal basis (a.k.a probable cause) to detain the person who has been arrested. The word “briefly” literally means under a minute in most cases and up to five minutes in complicated ones. Your case will be one of hundreds set that day.
Magistrate court is not a trial and the judge will not conduct an in depth analysis of whether you are guilty or innocent. It is not the time to mount your full defense. Instead, it is merely the time to address bond and pre-trial release – that is all!
In so doing, the judge will first determine if there is probable cause to detain the arrested person. This is done by reviewing the facts presented in police reports and comparing them to the requirements of Florida Law. The judge will also review arrest warrants, violation of probation warrants, violation of pre-trial release warrants, and he/she will give prosecutors and defense attorneys the opportunity to present argument and whatever other information they feel is relevant to the court’s decision.
For example, if a person is accused of possession of cocaine, the police report must allege that the person either had actual or constructive possession of a substance that at least field tested positive for the presence of cocaine. Without an allegation that 1) the person possessed the substance AND 2) that the substance was determined to be cocaine, the magistrate judge will find that there is NO probable cause… this is because probable cause in a possession of cocaine case require both of these elements (other charges have different elements and may require more or less information depending on the circumstances).
If there is a problem with your case and the judge finds that there is no probable cause, the prosecutor can ask the court for a maximum of 48 hours to get additional information and correct the problem. This is called “perfecting” the probable cause affidavit.
For instance, if the alleged substance in our cocaine example was never chemically tested to determine if it actually had cocaine in it, then the prosecutor will be given up to 48 hours to test the substance and bring the results back to court.
What Happens if the Judge DOES Find Probable Cause?
If the magistrate judge decides that probable cause does in fact exist, the next step is to address your bond status.
According to Florida Law, every person arrested for a crime is entitled to a reasonable bond, UNLESS they are accused of a capital offense, a life felony, or were arrested on a warrant for violation of probation, or for violation of pre-trial release.
When setting bond, the magistrate judge will consider the following three main factors:
- The nature of the alleged crime.
- Whether the defendant is a flight risk.
- Whether the defendant is a danger to the community.
However, capital crimes and LIFE offenses are different. A person arrested for any capital offense of LIFE felony is not entitled to an automatic bond.