Upon your first appearance in court, a federal magistrate judge will decide if you should be released with or without supervision, or held in jail. Bonds in federal court are different than the Washington Superior Court and most other state courts. If a person is released with an appearance bond, it typically does not include posting cash or property. If released, the vast majority of defendants are not required to put up money or property. Instead, the magistrate judge will typically order supervision conditions for those released on an appearance bond.
The issue of release or detention is determined at a detention hearing which may be held at the initial appearance or your lawyer may ask for a hearing a few days later. This gives the lawyer and defense investigator time to develop a stronger case for release. Sometimes, the government may ask for additional time to prepare for a detention hearing.
At the detention hearing, the magistrate judge will consider factors such as the nature of the charges, your ties to the community, your employment history, any prior convictions, any prior failures to appear for court, among other things. In general, the law says the magistrate judge can order that you be detained pending trial only if he or she determines that no conditions can assure the safety of the community and your future appearance in court.
If the magistrate judge determines that supervision conditions can adequately protect the community and assure your future appearance, he or she releases you with a bond that sets forth the conditions of your release. For most felony offenses, if pretrial release is allowed, you would be supervised by the probation department and the conditions can vary depending on the seriousness of the charges against you, your criminal history, your ties to the community, and your financial circumstances.
A bond is basically a contract between you and the probation department. This contract requires that you show up to your court dates and comply with the conditions of the bond. If you do not, you can be subject to arrest, detention, and in some instances, additional charges.