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Bail is frequently the first, and most important, battle in a criminal case. Having a seasoned criminal attorney that knows about you and your case can mean the difference between going home or going to jail. In state proceedings, having an attorney present at your preliminary arraignment (which occurs before the preliminary hearing) that is familiar with your personal background and the circumstances of your case will almost invariably result in a lower or more reasonable bail. In federal proceedings, having an attorney that is familiar with the Bail Reform Act and the federal rules of criminal procedure and case law regarding pretrial detention, can make a significant difference in being released at all pretrial.

It is vitally important to hire an attorney immediately upon learning that you are the target of a criminal investigation. If you are unexpectedly arrested and do not have the opportunity to meet with an attorney before being arrested, it is vital that your loved ones contact an attorney immediately after being arrested. The attorney must be informed as to your background and the circumstances of your case.

In state proceedings you will have at most about 15-20 hours before you are arraigned and the commissioner sets bail. Commissioners are not judges and typically they are not attorneys. If you are able to hire an attorney before you are arraigned, your attorney can represent you at your arraignment before the commissioner. In PA, specifically, Philadelphia, the bail set by the commissioner is immediately appealable or reviewable by a Municipal Court judge or a Common Pleas Court judge. If bail is not attainable after the preliminary arraignment and a bail reduction motion can be filed with the court and heard in a few days. If no motion is filed to reduce bail, a bail reduction can be orally raised at the first preliminary hearing listing.

In PA a court or judge can prohibit bail under certain circumstances or for certain offenses. Article 14 of the PA Constitution states in relevant part;

All prisoners shall be bailable by sufficient sureties,
unless for capital offenses or for offenses for which the
maximum sentence is life imprisonment or unless no condition or
combination of conditions other than imprisonment will
reasonably assure the safety of any person and the community
when the proof is evident or presumption great;

As reflected by the above referenced portion of Article 14, bail is prohibited in capital offenses, offenses for which the sentence is life imprisonment (first degree and second degree murder cases) and cases where the DA’s Office files a motion to preclude bail.

In the federal court system, the Bail Reform Act of 1986, 18 U.S.C. Section 3142, is the law that governs bail. There are certain offenses (including drug distribution in certain cases) in which there is a presumption that a person be detained pretrial – in other words held without bail or denied bail. After an arrest in a federal case you will have an initial appearance before a magistrate at which time bail may be addressed. At that hearing, Section 3142 permits the prosecutor the power to request a 3 day continuance of the bail hearing. If the prosecution opts to exercise this power the result is that your bail hearing can be delayed for several days. During that time it is imperative that you hire an attorney that is experienced in federal practice and is familiar with what is necessary to prepare for the detention hearing and to file a motion in opposition to the prosecutor’s motion for pretrial detention.

A bail reduction motion is allowed in the PA Courts and in federal court. The criminal justice systems allows for a bail reduction, or bail modification (i.e., to rescind the condition of house arrest), when a judge determines it is justifiable, considering the defendant’s ties to the community, criminal history of the defendant, the nature of the charges, the safety of the community, and the ability of the defendant to post bail. In addition a defendant may submit to conditions, like electronic monitoring, to ensure his appearance for court and compliance with pretrial conditions of bail.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office may ask for a Nebbia order at the time of your arraignment. They can ask for a Nebbia order when there are circumstances that may raise an inference that money posted for bail may be derived from criminal activity – such as drug proceeds. In cases where there are significant quantities of drugs and money recovered during an investigation or at the time of an arrest, the ADA in arraignment court will ask for a Nebbia order. If requested the commissioner must impose such a condition upon bail. Only a Common Pleas Court judge can review (or lifted) a Nebbia order. The effect of a Nebbia order is substantial – it will delay your release from custody for several days or weeks. A motion to lift the Nebbia order must be filed. It takes several days to obtain a hearing before a judge. The sooner an attorney is hired, the sooner a motion to lift a Nebbia order can be filed and listed for a hearing and the sooner you can be released.

Each case has unique evidence and circumstances that must be thoroughly reviewed and analyzed by the Law Office of Gregory J. Pagano in order to advise you on how to proceed with the defense of your case. No matter what the circumstances of your case, the Law Office of Gregory J. Pagano will provide personal attention and work tirelessly to get you the results you need.


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