Phone: 256-927-7490

Why Was Zimmerman’s Bond Revoked?

Jun 07

George Zimmerman has become a famous (or infamous) name recently. Most people have heard about Zimmerman, who was charged with killing Trayvon Martin a few months ago. Anyone who has been closely following the case also knows that Zimmerman was released from custody on a $150,000.00 bond in April of this year. A few days ago, however, Zimmerman’s bond was revoked. This bond revocation has caused one reader to question how and why Zimmerman could be ordered to return to jail after being released.

Under Alabama laws of criminal procedure, with very limited exceptions, a person has a right to be released on bond while awaiting his trial. In its simplest form, bond (or bail) requires either money or property be placed in control of the court as assurance that the defendant will show up for court appearances related to his case. If the defendant fails to appear, the court can declare the money or property “forfeited” and issue a warrant for the immediate arrest of the defendant.

As a condition of bond, the defendant must at least (1) appear to answer and submit to the orders of the court; (2) refrain from committing any new criminal offense; (3) not depart from the State without permission from the Court; and (4) immediately notify the court of any change of address. The court can also place other requirements on the defendant, such as submit to random drug testing, make payments into the court for any future costs or fines, etc.

Alabama criminal procedure sets up “recommended ranges” for bond amounts, which vary depending on the type of charge. For example, for a class C felony the recommended range is $2,500 to $15,000; for a class B felony $5,000 to 30,000; for a class A felony $10,000 to $60,000; $15,000 to $75,000 for murder; $5,000 to $1,500,000 for drug trafficking, and so on. The amounts can be adjusted up or down based on several factors including: the severity of the crime, the risk of the defendant fleeing, the criminal history of the defendant, and the ability of the defendant to actually pay the bond.   

During Zimmerman’s bond hearing, Zimmerman’s wife testified that she had no money to post bond for her husband. Considering the Zimmerman’s financial status, and the severity of the crime, the court set Zimmerman’s bond at $150,000, which some people considered to be low. Zimmerman’s family posted the bond and he was freed.

Later, however, prosecutor Bernardo de la Rionda discovered that the Zimmerman’s had raised over $135,000 from the public which was not disclosed to the court at the bond hearing. Bernardo de la Rionda called Ms. Zimmerman’s testimony about her financial condition “a blatant lie.” The judge, obviously upset about Ms. Zimmerman’s untruthful testimony, ordered Mr. Zimmerman to return to jail.

This is a perfect example of probably one of the most important rules to remember in a bond hearing (or any other court proceeding) – never lie to the judge. Lying to the court is almost always justifiable grounds for the court to change its mind on a ruling. In this case, it may mean that Zimmerman has to remain in jail while awaiting trial, even though he didn’t violate any of the “standard terms” of his release. Additionally, it makes others question his credibility, which will always be an issue at trial.