The judge in the George Zimmerman case, Seminole County, Florida Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester, Jr., ordered George Zimmerman’s bond to be set at $1,000,000 with additional conditions including electronic monitoring, restrictions on leaving Seminole County, Florida without permission, check ins required every forty eight hours, curfew between 6:00pm and 6:00am, as well as requirements that he not enter the Orlando-Sanford International Airport, open or maintain a bank account, or apply for or obtain a passport. According to the judge’s order, the “increased bail is not a punishment; it is meant to allay [the] Court’s concern that [George Zimmerman] intended to flee the jurisdiction and a lesser amount would not ensure his presence in court.”
A bond is set in a criminal matter in an amount reasonably determined by the judge to be sufficient to deter the Defendant from absconding and failing to return to Court. If a criminal Defendant bonds out of jail and subsequently fails to appear in Court, in most circumstances the judge can order that the bond be forfeited. Courts reason that if bonds are too low on serious charges, a criminal Defendant could decide that they would rather forfeit the money paid for the bond rather than return to the Court.
Zimmerman’s bond was increased after initially being set at $150,000 and subsequently revoked after the State of Florida sought revocation of the bond based on the allegation that the Defendant had presented false testimony at the initial bond hearing. In the latest bond order, Judge Lester, Jr. stated that the Defendant “has flaunted the system” and that a higher bond was appropriate in this case. The eight page bond order outlines in extensive detail the analysis followed by the Court in determining the bond amount. The Court considered the nature and circumstances of the offense charged, the weight of the evidence against the Defendant, the Defendant’s ties to the community, employment history, financial resources and mental condition, the Defendant’s past and present conduct, whether the Defendant is a danger to the community, the source of funds to post bail, the probability that the Defendant would pose a threat to the victim’s family (noting that the Court found no evidence that the Defendant would pose any threat), whether the Defendant had committed a new crime while on pre-trial release, and the ability of the Defendant to pay the bail (noting that “setting an excessive bail is the functional equivalent of setting no bail at all.”