A person who is detained at an immigration detention center can ask for a bond hearing to see if the judge will agree to release him on bond. The detainee can represent himself or he can choose to be represented by an attorney. On the opposite side, we have the government attorney (or ICE attorney) who is typically fighting to deport a detainee. A bond hearing is conducted to present to the judge arguments in favor and against the release of this detainee.
Generally, you only get one bond hearing, so you have one chance to present the best arguments, evidence, and witnesses to help your case. You should not take a bond hearing lightly. Although this is not a formal immigration hearing, what you do—or not do—at a bond hearing can determine what remaining time you will have in the U.S., how quickly your case will be processed (detained cases are processed quicker), and where your case will be heard (for example, the court immigration in Stewart/Lumpkin, Georgia will typically hear cases by detained immigrants only.
At the bond hearing , the ICE attorney will show the judge everything that is on a detainee’s criminal record and immigration history. ICE fingerprints detainees, so they will find out about this person’s history and it does not matter how old it is. If you think a DUI from 1992 is not a problem because it was “so long ago” and “everything was paid,” you are completely wrong; it matters. Everything on your criminal record matters, not matter how small. You got a traffic ticket and you think it is not important because it is only a ticket? Wrong; it matters because your criminal history reflects on your moral character and the judge will be looking at that when he considers whether releasing you would endanger the community.
The following things will not help you at a bond hearing:
- An extensive criminal record,
- No family or community ties in the U.S.,
- An extensive immigration record that shows several violations of the law,
- Lying to the judge or the ICE attorney (the judge is not likely to believe you anymore after he finds out you lied),
- Lying to your own attorney or hiding important facts about your case,
- Not knowing your complete criminal record,
- Not being eligible for any immigration benefit or visa, etc.
The following are things that do help you at a bond hearing:
- Being truthful to the judge and the ICE attorney about your criminal and immigration records,
- Presenting all evidence about your case at the time of the bond hearing (not after—remember, you only get one chance),
- Hire an attorney to negotiate with the ICE attorney about agreeing to a bond,
- Show that any arrest or criminal conviction is old and/or minor and that there has been no other encounter with law enforcement ever since,
- Have witnesses available to testify at your bond hearing, if the judge asks,
- Submit a strong motion for a bond with the court and attach all important evidence with it,
- Hire an attorney to argue for your release—sometimes bond cases involve very complex legal issues. For example, if ICE is accusing a detainee of having committed an aggravated felony that would not make him eligible for a bond, can you prove to the judge that ICE is wrong? Would you know what an aggravated felony is? These are things that an attorney researches and argues in writing and in person before the judge.
It is also important to note that each judge conducts a bond hearing differently—some want to see a lot of evidence in the form of documents, while others want to hear arguments at the time of the hearing. Knowing your judge can make a huge difference in the outcome of a case.
To find out how to win a bond hearing, contact an attorney to help you with the preparation of a strong bond application and hearing.
Johanna Cochran, Associate Attorney