Virginia Bail and Bond Motions

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Individuals charged with serious offenses and individuals who have a history of not appearing in court, will not be set free after an arrest (bail will be denied by the magistrate.) The defendant will need to have an attorney file a motion on his behalf to try and argue for release in front of a Judge. This is called a Motion to Admit the Defendant to Bail and Set Bond, or a Motion for the Reduction of Bond. Lawyers also refer to these as pretrial release motions.

Setting a reasonable bond in Virginia is based on numerous legal grounds, to include: the Bill of Rights – 8th Amendment – United States Constitutional prohibition of excessive bail, the Virginia Constitutional prohibition of excessive bail (Article I, Section 9), and Virginia Code § 19.2-120 (see Virginia law sections below).

As such, Virginia law states that a person who is held in custody pending trial or hearing for a criminal offense shall be admitted to bail unless there is probable cause to believe that:

1. He will not appear for trial or hearing or at such other time and place as may be directed, or
2. His liberty will constitute an unreasonable danger to himself or the public.

Admission to bail and the setting of a bond is in the decision of a judge, not a prosecutor. A prosecutor’s agreement that a bond is appropriate is very persuasive for a judge.

Sometimes a prosecutor will object to a defendant’s motion for pretrial release. In such cases, the prosecutor bears the burden of proof and must convince the judge why the accused should not be released to bail in a case where the prosecutor opposes pretrial release. The legal standard that the prosecutor much reach is probable cause, not proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

However, with more serious charges, the burden will rest on the accused.

Virginia law states that the judge shall presume that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of the accused or the safety of the public if the accused is currently charged with one of the crimes listed in Section 19.2-120(B) (below). The only way for the accused to possibly be released on a reasonable bond is to go through a bond hearing with the prosecutor and defense lawyer and prove his case for pretrial release to a judge.

List of offenses where the burden of proof for pretrial release is on the defense:

    • Certain firearm violations that are punished by a mandatory minimum sentence
    • Certain involuntary manslaughter, maiming, and DUI charges
    • Any malicious felonious assault or malicious bodily wounding
    • Felony domestic assault and battery
    • Strangulation of a family or household member
    • Protective order violation
    • Felony obstruction of justice
    • Certain felony sexual assault charges
    • Certain drug sale/distribution charges involving a Schedule I or II controlled substance 
    • An offense for which the maximum sentence is life imprisonment or death
    • First and second degree murder and voluntary manslaughter
    • Any felony, if the person has previously been convicted of two or more offenses
    • Any felony committed while the person is on release pending trial for a prior felony, or on release pending imposition or execution of a sentence, or appeal of sentence or conviction
    • Robbery
    • Any kidnapping or abduction felony
    • Criminal street gang charges
    • Certain commercial sex trafficking / prostitution offenses
    • Certain child pornography offenses and use of computers for solicitation offenses
    • Mob-related felonies

A defense attorney should be consulted in all instances where a magistrate denies bond.

Bond Motion Arguments

When your lawyer has to present evidence and arguments in rebuttal of the presumption against bail, a judge’s determination of whether there are conditions of release that will reasonably assure the appearance of the accused  and the safety of the public will be guided by these factors:

1. The nature and circumstances of the offense charged;

2. The history and characteristics of the accused, including his character, physical and mental condition, family ties, employment, financial resources, length of residence in the community, community ties, past conduct, history relating to drug or alcohol abuse, criminal history, membership in a criminal street gang, track record of attending court appearance; and,

3. The nature and seriousness of the danger to any person or the community that would be posed by releasing the accused.

Virginia Bail & Bond Statutes


Virginia law definitions: 

“Bail” means the pretrial release of a person from custody upon those terms and conditions specified by order of an appropriate judicial officer.

“Bond” means the posting by a person or his surety of a written promise to pay a specific sum, secured or unsecured, ordered by an appropriate judicial officer as a condition of bail to assure performance of the terms and conditions contained in the recognizance.

“Criminal history” means records and data collected by criminal justice agencies or persons consisting of identifiable descriptions and notations of arrests, detentions, indictments, informations or other formal charges, and any deposition arising therefrom.

“Judicial officer” means, unless otherwise indicated, any magistrate serving the jurisdiction, any judge of a district court and the clerk or deputy clerk of any district court or circuit court within their respective cities and counties, any judge of a circuit court, any judge of the Court of Appeals and any justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia.

“Person” means any accused, or any juvenile taken into custody pursuant to § 16.1-246.

“Recognizance” means a signed commitment by a person to appear in court as directed and to adhere to any other terms ordered by an appropriate judicial officer as a condition of bail.

§ 19.2-102. In what cases bail allowed; conditions of bond.

Unless the offense with which the prisoner is charged is shown to be an offense punishable by death or life imprisonment under the laws of the state in which it was committed, any judge, magistrate or other person authorized by law to admit persons to bail in this Commonwealth may admit the person arrested to bail by bond, with sufficient sureties, and in such sum as he deems proper, conditioned upon his appearance before a judge at a time specified in such bond and upon his surrender for arrest upon the warrant of the Governor of this Commonwealth.

§ 19.2-120. Admission to bail.

Prior to conducting any hearing on the issue of bail, release or detention, the judicial officer shall, to the extent feasible, obtain the person’s criminal history.

A. A person who is held in custody pending trial or hearing for an offense, civil or criminal contempt, or otherwise shall be admitted to bail by a judicial officer, unless there is probable cause to believe that:

1. He will not appear for trial or hearing or at such other time and place as may be directed, or

2. His liberty will constitute an unreasonable danger to himself or the public.

B. The judicial officer shall presume, subject to rebuttal, that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of the person or the safety of the public if the person is currently charged with:

1. An act of violence as defined in § 19.2-297.1;

2. An offense for which the maximum sentence is life imprisonment or death;

3. A violation of § 18.2-248, 18.2-248.01, 18.2-255, or 18.2-255.2 involving a Schedule I or II controlled substance if (i) the maximum term of imprisonment is 10 years or more and the person was previously convicted of a like offense or (ii) the person was previously convicted as a “drug kingpin” as defined in § 18.2-248;

4. A violation of § 18.2-308.1, 18.2-308.2, or 18.2-308.4 and which relates to a firearm and provides for a mandatory minimum sentence;

5. Any felony, if the person has been convicted of two or more offenses described in subdivision 1 or 2, whether under the laws of the Commonwealth or substantially similar laws of the United States;

6. Any felony committed while the person is on release pending trial for a prior felony under federal or state law or on release pending imposition or execution of sentence or appeal of sentence or conviction;

7. An offense listed in subsection B of § 18.2-67.5:2 and the person had previously been convicted of an offense listed in § 18.2-67.5:2 or a substantially similar offense under the laws of any state or the United States and the judicial officer finds probable cause to believe that the person who is currently charged with one of these offenses committed the offense charged;

8. A violation of § 18.2-374.1 or 18.2-374.3 where the offender has reason to believe that the solicited person is under 15 years of age and the offender is at least five years older than the solicited person;

9. A violation of § 18.2-46.2, 18.2-46.3, 18.2-46.5, or 18.2-46.7;

10. A violation of § 18.2-36.1, 18.2-51.4, 18.2-266, or 46.2-341.24 and the person has, within the past five years of the instant offense, been convicted three times on different dates of a violation of any combination of these Code sections, or any ordinance of any county, city, or town or the laws of any other state or of the United States substantially similar thereto, and has been at liberty between each conviction;

11. A second or subsequent violation of § 16.1-253.2 or 18.2-60.4 or a substantially similar offense under the laws of any state or the United States;

12. A violation of subsection B of § 18.2-57.2;

13. A violation of subsection C of § 18.2-460 charging the use of threats of bodily harm or force to knowingly attempt to intimidate or impede a witness;

14. A violation of § 18.2-51.6 if the alleged victim is a family or household member as defined in § 16.1-228; or

15. A violation of § 18.2-355, 18.2-356, 18.2-357, or 18.2-357.1.

C. The judicial officer shall presume, subject to rebuttal, that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of the person or the safety of the public if the person is being arrested pursuant to § 19.2-81.6.

D. For a person who is charged with an offense giving rise to a rebuttable presumption against bail, any judicial officer may set or admit such person to bail in accordance with this section.

E. The judicial officer shall consider the following factors and such others as it deems appropriate in determining, for the purpose of rebuttal of the presumption against bail described in subsection B, whether there are conditions of release that will reasonably assure the appearance of the person as required and the safety of the public:

1. The nature and circumstances of the offense charged;

2. The history and characteristics of the person, including his character, physical and mental condition, family ties, employment, financial resources, length of residence in the community, community ties, past conduct, history relating to drug or alcohol abuse, criminal history, membership in a criminal street gang as defined in § 18.2-46.1, and record concerning appearance at court proceedings; and

3. The nature and seriousness of the danger to any person or the community that would be posed by the person’s release.

F. The judicial officer shall inform the person of his right to appeal from the order denying bail or fixing terms of bond or recognizance consistent with § 19.2-124.

G. If the judicial officer sets a secured bond and the person engages the services of a licensed bail bondsman, the magistrate executing recognizance for the accused shall provide the bondsman, upon request, with a copy of the person’s Virginia criminal history record, if readily available, to be used by the bondsman only to determine appropriate reporting requirements to impose upon the accused upon his release. The bondsman shall pay a $15 fee payable to the state treasury to be credited to the Literary Fund, upon requesting the defendant’s Virginia criminal history record issued pursuant to § 19.2-389. The bondsman shall review the record on the premises and promptly return the record to the magistrate after reviewing it.


§ 19.2-297.1. Sentence of person twice previously convicted of certain violent felonies.

A. Any person convicted of two or more separate acts of violence when such offenses were not part of a common act, transaction or scheme, and who has been at liberty as defined in § 53.1-151 between each conviction, shall, upon conviction of a third or subsequent act of violence, be sentenced to life imprisonment and shall not have all or any portion of the sentence suspended, provided it is admitted, or found by the jury or judge before whom he is tried, that he has been previously convicted of two or more such acts of violence. For the purposes of this section, “act of violence” means (i) any one of the following violations of Chapter 4 (§ 18.2-30 et seq.) of Title 18.2:

a. First and second degree murder and voluntary manslaughter under Article 1 (§ 18.2-30 et seq.);

b. Mob-related felonies under Article 2 (§ 18.2-38 et seq.);

c. Any kidnapping or abduction felony under Article 3 (§ 18.2-47 et seq.);

d. Any malicious felonious assault or malicious bodily wounding under Article 4 (§ 18.2-51 et seq.);

e. Robbery under § 18.2-58 and carjacking under § 18.2-58.1;

f. Except as otherwise provided in § 18.2-67.5:2 or § 18.2-67.5:3, criminal sexual assault punishable as a felony under Article 7 (§ 18.2-61 et seq.); or

g. Arson in violation of § 18.2-77 when the structure burned was occupied or a Class 3 felony violation of § 18.2-79.

(ii) conspiracy to commit any of the violations enumerated in clause (i) of this section; and (iii) violations as a principal in the second degree or accessory before the fact of the provisions enumerated in clause (i) of this section.

B. Prior convictions shall include convictions under the laws of any state or of the United States for any offense substantially similar to those listed under “act of violence” if such offense would be a felony if committed in the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth shall notify the defendant in writing, at least thirty days prior to trial, of its intention to seek punishment pursuant to this section.

C. Any person sentenced to life imprisonment pursuant to this section shall not be eligible for parole and shall not be eligible for any good conduct allowance or any earned sentence credits under Chapter 6 (§ 53.1-186 et seq.) of Title 53.1. However, any person subject to the provisions of this section, other than a person who was sentenced under subsection A of § 18.2-67.5:3 for criminal sexual assault convictions specified in subdivision f, (i) who has reached the age of sixty-five or older and who has served at least five years of the sentence imposed or (ii) who has reached the age of sixty or older and who has served at least ten years of the sentence imposed may petition the Parole Board for conditional release. The Parole Board shall promulgate regulations to implement the provisions of this subsection.

§ 19.2-121. Fixing terms of bail.

A. If the person is admitted to bail, the terms thereof shall be such as, in the judgment of any official granting or reconsidering the same, will be reasonably fixed to assure the appearance of the accused and to assure his good behavior pending trial. The judicial officer shall take into account (i) the nature and circumstances of the offense; (ii) whether a firearm is alleged to have been used in the offense; (iii) the weight of the evidence; (iv) the financial resources of the accused or juvenile and his ability to pay bond; (v) the character of the accused or juvenile including his family ties, employment or involvement in education; (vi) his length of residence in the community; (vii) his record of convictions; (viii) his appearance at court proceedings or flight to avoid prosecution or failure to appear at court proceedings; (ix) whether the person is likely to obstruct or attempt to obstruct justice, or threaten, injure, or intimidate, or attempt to threaten, injure, or intimidate a prospective witness, juror, or victim; and (x) any other information available which the court considers relevant to the determination of whether the accused or juvenile is unlikely to appear for court proceedings.

B. When a magistrate conducts a bail hearing for a person arrested on a warrant or capias for a jailable offense, the magistrate shall describe the information considered under subsection A on a form provided by the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court and shall transmit the completed form to the circuit court or district court before which the warrant or capias is returnable.

C. In any case where the accused has appeared and otherwise met the conditions of bail, no bond therefor shall be used to satisfy fines and costs unless agreed to by the person who posted such bond.

 

§ 19.2-124. Appeal from bail, bond, or recognizance order.

A. If a judicial officer denies bail to a person, requires excessive bond, or fixes unreasonable terms of a recognizance under this article, the person may appeal the decision of the judicial officer.

If the initial bail decision on a charge brought by a warrant or district court capias is made by a magistrate, clerk, or deputy clerk, the person shall first appeal to the district court in which the case is pending.

If the initial bail decision on a charge brought by direct indictment or presentment or circuit court capias is made by a magistrate, clerk, or deputy clerk, the person shall first appeal to the circuit court in which the case is pending.

If the appeal of an initial bail decision is taken on any charge originally pending in a district court after that charge has been appealed, certified, or transferred to a circuit court, the person shall first appeal to the circuit court in which the case is pending.

Any bail decision made by a judge of a court may be appealed successively by the person to the next higher court, up to and including the Supreme Court of Virginia, where permitted by law.

The bail decision of the higher court on such appeal, unless the higher court orders otherwise, shall be remanded to the court in which the case is pending for enforcement and modification. The court in which the case is pending shall not modify the bail decision of the higher court, except upon a change in the circumstances subsequent to the decision of the higher court.

B. The attorney for the Commonwealth may appeal a bail, bond, or recognizance decision to the same court to which the accused person is required to appeal under subsection A.

C. In a matter not governed by subsection B or C of § 19.2-120 or § 19.2-120.1, the court granting or denying such bail may, upon appeal thereof, and for good cause shown, stay execution of such order for so long as reasonably practicable for the party to obtain an expedited hearing before the next higher court. When a district court grants bail over the presumption against bail in a matter that is governed by subsection B or C of § 19.2-120 or § 19.2-120.1, and upon notice by the Commonwealth of its appeal of the court’s decision, the court shall stay execution of such order for so long as reasonably practical for the Commonwealth to obtain an expedited hearing before the circuit court, but in no event more than five days, unless the defendant requests a hearing date outside the five-day limit.

No such stay under this subsection may be granted after any person who has been granted bail has been released from custody on such bail.

D. No filing or service fees shall be assessed or collected for any appeal taken pursuant to this section.

§ 19.2-125. Release pending appeal from conviction in court not of record.

A person who has been convicted of an offense in a district court and who has noted an appeal shall be given credit for any bond that he may have posted in the court from which he appeals and shall be treated in accordance with the provisions of this article.

§ 19.2-103. Discharge, recommitment or renewal of bail.

If the accused is not arrested under warrant of the Governor by the expiration of the time specified in the warrant or bond, any judge in this Commonwealth may discharge him or may recommit him for a further period not to exceed sixty days, or such judge may again take bail for his appearance and surrender, as provided in the preceding section, but within a period not to exceed sixty days after the date of such new bond.

§ 19.2-104. Forfeiture of bail.

If the prisoner is admitted to bail and fails to appear and surrender himself according to the conditions of his bond, any judge of a circuit or general district court by proper order, shall declare the bond forfeited and order his immediate arrest without warrant if he be within this Commonwealth. Recovery may be had on such bond in the name of the Commonwealth as in the case of other bonds given by the accused in criminal proceedings within this Commonwealth.

§ 19.2-132. Motion to increase amount of bond fixed by judicial officer; when bond may be increased.

A. If the amount of any bond fixed by a judicial officer is subsequently deemed insufficient, or the security taken inadequate, or if it appears that bail should have been denied or that the person has violated a term or condition of his release, or has been convicted of or arrested for a felony or misdemeanor, the attorney for the Commonwealth of the county or city in which the person is held for trial may, on reasonable notice to the person and, if such person has been admitted to bail, to any surety on the bond of such person, move the appropriate judicial officer to increase the amount of such bond or to revoke bail. The court may grant such motion and may require new or additional sureties therefor, or both, or revoke bail. Any surety in a bond for the appearance of such person may take from his principal collateral or other security to indemnify such surety against liability. The failure to notify the surety will not prohibit the court from proceeding with the bond hearing.

The court ordering any increase in the amount of such bond, ordering new or additional sureties, or both, or revoking such bail may, upon appeal, and for good cause shown, stay execution of such order for so long as reasonably practicable for such person to obtain an expedited hearing before the court to which such order has been appealed.

B. Any motion filed pursuant to subsection A where the initial bail decision is made by a judge or clerk of a district court or by a magistrate on any charge originally pending in that district court shall be filed in that district court unless (i) a bail decision is on appeal, (ii) such charge has been transferred pursuant to § 16.1-269.1 to a circuit court, or (iii) such charge has been certified by a district court.

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