Different from state bail processes, the federal bail process is held to Statute 18 U.S.C. ยง 3142, which states that a pretrial release (release on bail) must be available to the defendant unless there is a risk that the defendant will not hold court obligations (flight risk) or that the defendant will commit additional crimes (danger to community).


After arrest, the defendant will be interviewed by a Pretrial Services Officer in a federal case. This officer is responsible for making pretrial release recommendations to the judge based on the defendant's background, nature of criminal offense, and their contacts in the community. During the detention hearing, the judge will consider the Pretrial Services Officer's recommendations, as well as whether or not the defendant is a flight risk or danger to the community. If these factors are not the case, the judge will set bail according to the his own and the Pretrial Officer's judgement. If these factors are true, the judge must consider a combination of release conditions, requiring the defendant to:

  • execute a bond, secured or unsecured;
  • be released under the custody of a third party custodian (family member);
  • maintain or look for employment;
  • abide by travel restrictions;
  • be subject to GPS monitoring;
  • undergo regular drug or psychological testing or treatment;
  • comply with anything the judge may deem fit to assure the defendant's appearance in court and the safety of the community.

Other pretrial release conditions, whether or not the defendant is a flight risk or danger to others, may include:

  • the surrender of all passports
  • limited ability to travel
  • the surrender all firearms
  • abstaining from drug and alcohol use
  • being confined to a curfew
  • not associating with particular individuals
  • no loitering in certain areas or institutions
  • not being employed in certain fields and industries
  • taking part in a court-ordered mental health evaluation
  • being monitored by a GPS tracking device
  • other restrictions specific to the case

If a defendant violates any of the conditions of their pretrial release, they will be brought back to jail to await their trial, which could amount to months in jail.


A secured bond (the most common) involves the defendant or a third party putting up money or collateral in advance to secure the release of the defendant. Normally, the bail is more than a person has in cash, so they'll take out a commercial bond with a bondsman. The premium for federal cases is normally higher than state cases, averaging around 15% of the bail amount. Property bonds are also considered secure, where a defendant or third party will offer property as collateral. In federal cases, the property usually must be 150% of the bail amount.

An unsecured bond involves signing a personal surety bond, which promises that the defendant will hold court obligations, whether it is signed by the defendant or a third party. Though there are no financial obligations up-front, the signee is responsible for the amount included in the personal surety bond if the defendant does not show up in court.


Bails and bonds cannot be paid with illegal money, so a Nebbia Hearing is conducted to verify the source of the money. If a source cannot be verified, bail is denied.

If you are involved in a federal case and need guidance, call Kevin Stockstill today.