In case you’re wondering how much money can be set for a bond, first, be aware of an extreme case: Cryptocurrency entrepreneur Sam Bankman-Fried was released from federal custody on December 22, 2022, only after his parents agreed to sign a $250 million bond and also pledged to keep their son at their California home while he awaits trial on financial crimes.
The $250 million bond is believed to be the largest federal pretrial bond ever set, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicolas Roos, reports CBS News.
Bankman-Fried was arrested on December 12 in the Bahamas after being charged with 7 counts, including:
- Wire fraud
- Money laundering
- Conspiracy to commit money laundering
- Conspiracy to commit wire fraud against lenders and customers
- Conspiracy to commit securities fraud
- Violations of campaign finance laws
Court documents also accused FTX and Bankman-Fried of failing to account accurately for the value of FTX’s crypto assets, as well as disorganized management of FTX’s cash holdings.
Such non-violent financial crimes—also known as white-collar crimes—were related to the November 2022 collapse of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX, of which Bankman-Fried was CEO until he resigned and FTX filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
He was quickly extradited to the United States and flown to New York. There, he was released after his parents agreed to use their Palo Alto, California, home’s equity as collateral for the bond.
Their son will be allowed to leave their home only for exercise or for legal proceedings. The United States District Court in New York also required him to undergo mental health and substance abuse treatment and wear an electronic monitoring bracelet.
CBS News reports that prosecutors agreed to bail because Bankman-Fried did not fight extradition, thus saving the government from what could have been a lengthy and costly process.
Learn about the harsh penalties for white-collar crimes like fraud, theft and embezzlement in Texas.
How high can bond be set in Texas?
As for how high bond can be set in Texas, that depends on the court, the charge and the crime.
Every court in Texas, including Harris County District Courts, has a bond “schedule” that guides judges on the amount of bail or bond for various crimes. This schedule is not a time frame but, instead, a list of the dollar amounts that can be set for bond, depending on the criminal charge.
However, judges and magistrates are free to adjust such amounts depending on the nature of the case.
The severity of a charge is among the chief factors in determining a bail amount. Other things which are taken into account when setting bail include:
- If a defendant might be a risk to society
- If a defendant was already out on bail when arrested
- If a defendant was on probation because of another criminal conviction
- If a defendant has previous criminal convictions
- If a defendant is considered to be a flight risk
Regardless of the amount of bail, it does not have to be posted in the form of cash in federal court. A federal court may accept credit cards or collateral, such as real estate. That was the case in New York federal court when Bankman-Fried’s parents used their home’s equity for collateral.
Federal bail amounts are returned if and when a defendant appears in court for trial. Surety bonds to bonding companies are NOT returned in state court.
As for the specific amounts of bail which may be set in Texas in order for an arrested person to be released pending trial, bail bonds may be set at around $1,000 to $3,500 for misdemeanors, which are less serious offenses.
But for felony offenses, bail is often set between $5,000 and $50,000—though it can be much more, depending on the offense.
According to the Bail Bonds Network, the average bail amounts for various crimes in Texas are:
- $9,000 for fraud or larceny-theft
- $31,000 for rape
- $34,000 for robbery
In Harris County, Texas, bonds for felonies can range from $2,000 for some 4th-degree felonies (which are less serious than 1st-, 2nd- or 3rd-degree felonies) to $50,000 for murder.
Did you know that Texas law allows some people who are convicted and sentenced for a crime to post bail and be released from custody while they await an appeal of their conviction?
Can my attorney get bail reduced?
As for whether your criminal defense attorney or lawyer can get your bail reduced, yes, that can be done since you have the right to request a bail reduction when your bail is set.
A bail hearing is then held, at which your defense lawyer can argue that you’re not a flight risk and will appear at trial.
As for what factors might help in establishing that you’re not a flight risk, these include whether you live in Texas and have a job in Texas that supports your family. It also helps if you do not have a criminal history and can afford only a lower bond.
Also, keep in mind that after your bail is set upon such a hearing, additional requirements may be made in order for you to continue to be free prior to trial. If you fail to meet these conditions, you may be subject to arrest and forfeiture of your bail amount.
Get an experienced Houston criminal defense lawyer
If you or a member of your family faces a criminal charge in the Houston area, you must get an experienced Houston criminal defense lawyer to protect your legal rights.
Your defense attorney may be able to negotiate your release with prosecutors by having a charge reduced or even dropped. If the charge remains, your defense lawyer at least may be able to get your bail reduced. And if you go to trial, a skilled criminal defense lawyer can fight for your case.
Neal Davis of the award-winning Neal Davis Law Firm can answer frequently asked questions about bail (the money you pay to get out of jail before trial) or about bond (money paid by a 3rd party to meet bail).
Davis has successfully managed to get bail amounts or bond amounts reduced and get bail or bond conditions changed in favor of defendants.