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Show Me The Money (And Where It Came From)!

In 1966, Jean Nebbia was charged and indicted for conspiring to import in absurd amount of heroin at the time: 95 Kilograms. His bail was set at $100,000. The court denied all his motions to reduce the bail.


Nebbia told the court he could not produce $100,000 for bail. However, after all his applications for reduction or modification were denied, his attorney presented a cashier's check for $100,000. The U.S. Prosecutor wasn't impressed. They demanded Nebbia provide sureties in addition to the money and a hearing to determine where the money came from.


Nebbia motioned for the court to release him immediately, as he complied with the terms of the bond. Nebbia believed that once he proffered the bail bond, he should be granted bail as a matter of right. The Federal District Court granted his release, and the United States appealed to the 2nd Circuit.


In the end, the 2nd Circuit found that a trial court should have the power to inquire into the source of assets used for bail. Bail, itself, is a method for assuring a defendant will return to court. "[It] is not the sum of the bail bond that society asks for, but rather the presence of the defendant." They reasoned if the court lacked confidence that the bail bond would ensure the return of the defendant, the court should have the power to deny the application for the bond. Or, in other words, who will return to court for money illegally gained?  Thus, Nebbia hearings were born. Other jurisdictions, state and federal, began the process of inquiring into the source of assets or funds proffered for bail if the court has reason to believe those assets or funds will not ensure a defendant will return.


US v. Nebbia, 357 F. 2d 303 (2nd Cir. 1966).

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