Bail in federal court is different than the California Superior Court and most other state courts. Bail will NOT automatically be set. We typically do not use bail bondsmen. If you are seeking release on bail, an officer from the United States Pretrial Services agency will interview you about your background, health, and finances, and also about people who are willing to serve as sureties for you. A surety is someone who is willing to sign a bond, in an amount set by the magistrate judge, agreeing that he or she will guarantee your appearance in court and your compliance with conditions of release. The magistrate judge may require only a signature or may require that the bond be secured either by a cash deposit or a lien against a house or other property  The magistrate judge may impose other conditions of release including drug testing, keep-away orders, location monitoring (with an ankle monitor), travel restrictions, the surrender of your passport, etc. You also will be required to check in regularly with a Pretrial Services Officer while your case is pending.  If the magistrate judge denies bail, you will get credit for every day in custody if you are later convicted, unless you are already serving another sentence when you are brought to court on the federal charge.

A bail hearing may be held at the initial appearance, or your lawyer may ask for a hearing a few days later. This gives the lawyer and defense investigator time to develop a stronger case for release.

When deciding whether to release you on bail, the magistrate judge will consider factors such as your ties to the community, your employment history, any prior convictions, any prior failures to appear for court, among other things. In general, the law says the magistrate judge can order that you be held without bail only if he or she determines that no conditions can assure the safety of the community and your appearance in court. However, most drug crimes, crimes of violence, and sex offenses lead to a “presumption of detention.”  If you are charged with one of these crimes, the judge will keep you in jail until your trial date unless your lawyer convinces the magistrate judge that you should be released. These types of crimes often require that the bail be secured by a lien against property.  It can take up to several weeks to post a property bond, and you may be required to stay in custody until the bond is posted.