Brief Description of the Federal Bail Reform Act

If you’re charged with a federal crime and the federal government seeks to have you detained prior to your trial, you will have a federal detention hearing. In Raleigh and Wake County, these hearings are held at the Terry Sanford Building which is the home to the Eastern District of North Carolina. Durham is in the Middle District of North Carolina.

The Federal Bail Reform Act of 1984 is the law that governs detention hearings under the federal system. It is codified at 18 USC 3142.

If the United States Attorney (USA) can show that there is a significant risk of flight, of obstruction of justice or witness tampering, or if there is a significant risk of danger, then the judge may order the detention of the person without bail prior to trial.

18 USC 3142(f) provides that only persons who fit into certain categories are subject to detention without bail: persons charged with a crime of violence, an offense for which the maximum sentence is life imprisonment or death, certain drug offenses for which the maximum offense is greater than 10 years, repeat felony offenders, or if the defendant poses a serious risk of flight, obstruction of justice, or witness tampering. There is a special hearing held to determine whether the defendant fits within these categories; anyone not within them must be admitted to bail.

There is a hearing where the government has the burden of showing such reasons to hold the person without bail. The burden of the government’s proof is low.

Anyone who is not shown to fit into those categories must have a bail set.

Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.