Federal Release Conditions: I Made Bail…But Wait

In late January 2014, Anthony Ciccone was charged with participating in a major Ponzi scheme allegedly perpetrated by a notorious New York businessman. He was ordered to wait in a federal detention center until his case is resolved. Ciccone, who is charged with attempting to launder money through a taxation scheme, had been out on bail before a federal magistrate revoked his conditional release for violating a court order.

Federal Magistrate Options

In the federal criminal justice system, prosecutors often seek to keep defendants in custody if they feel that detention may be detrimental to their defense. The decision to release or keep a defendant behind bars is made by federal magistrates who generally have three options:

  • Remanding the defendant to custody
  • Releasing the defendant without conditions
  • Releasing the defendant with conditions

The options above are issued at detention hearings, which must take place as soon as a defendant is arrested by federal law enforcement agents and taken into custody. Strategic defense attorneys may postpone detention hearings for the purpose of preparation and to gather facts about the case.

How a Magistrate Decides

If the federal magistrate considers that the defendant is not a danger to the community and that he or she will likely appear in court when ordered to do so, a decision to release without conditions is issued. This is known as being released upon the defendant’s own recognizance.

If the federal magistrate considers the defendant to be a dangerous and violent criminal, further custody can be expected. This may also be the case when the defendant is very likely to escape or hide from authorities instead of obeying orders to appear in court.

Federal Release Conditions

In general, federal magistrates do not wish to keep defendants in custody. Even when prosecutors insist that defendants be kept imprisoned as their cases are litigated, federal magistrates may choose to release a defendant with conditions that address the flight risk and safety concerns. The conditions set must be the least restrictive when considering the risk factors. The most typical federal release conditions include:

  • Execution of a surety bond, which can also be the defendant’s promise to surrender title to valuable property such as a house in case of a missed court appearance
  • Maintain employment or attend school
  • Electronic monitoring by means of an ankle bracelet or GPS device
  • Agree to pretrial supervision, which is similar to probation
  • Surrendering passports
  • Agree to stay within the federal district
  • Report to a federal detention facility after working hours
  • Attend substance abuse counseling
  • Avoid contacting victims, co-defendants and witnesses
  • Refrain from associating with convicted felons

The last condition on the list above prompted the New York federal magistrate mentioned at the beginning of this article to revoke the bail release of the Long Island defendant. Violating a condition of federal release does not automatically put a defendant back in jail; a hearing must be held first and the magistrate must consider the gravity of the violation as well as the circumstances

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About the Author

Law Office of James Alston. serves people who need legal assistance in their Criminal Defense Cases in Texas.

Houston Criminal Lawyer James Alston represents clients in the Houston area, including Pasadena, Sugar Land, Missouri City, Channelview, Conroe, Galveston, Angleton, Richmond, Rosenberg, Beaumont, Galveston County, Ft. Bend County, Montgomery County, Brazoria County, Harris County and Jefferson County in Texas.