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The Border Hold, Posting Bail in Criminal Cases, and What Happens Next

What is the Border Hold Process and Can You Post Bail in a Criminal Case With a Border Hold on You?


As criminal defense attorneys practicing law near the border in Bellingham, WA, we sometimes have to deal with the “border hold” process, posting bail for international clients, and the U.S. Federal rules for deportation.  The short answer is that yes, you can post bail or bond even with a border hold process pending against you, but that’s when things can get potentially complicated.

A so-called border hold is placed by U.S. Homeland Security on a foreign person who is being held in county jail, and it usually requires local jail staff to notify border agents if the person is about to be released. Under the 2014 Federal Immigration Act, border holds can be placed on people for being in the United States illegally, for having unresolved customs violations, or for having warrants of arrest in Canada or in other countries.  Legally a border hold cannot be used to unreasonably delay a person’s release from the jail, and on occasion, the hold will expire before border agents can get to the jail and take the foreign person into custody.

When agents are notified in a timely manner about a person with a border hold who is about to be released, frequently agents go to the jail and take custody of the person. In most cases, the person is handed over into Federal custody and then they get transported to the U.S. Border Station in Blaine, WA.  Once there, the person has an interview, mug-shot photographs, and fingerprints taken.  In about 90% of the cases where the person is handled this way, they end up being “summarily deported” from the United States, and will require a lot of legal and administrative processing with an Immigration Lawyer in the future to ever renter the US again.  The only exception will be to attend their upcoming court dates, and these details usually get worked out between the local prosecutor and Federal Authorities near the time of the person’s court date.

Another possible way that border holds are handled is that after a local release is made, federal authorities will take custody of the person. Eventually, the agents transport these individuals to the Northwest Detention Center or “NWDC”. This facility is a private immigration prison located on the tide flats of the Port of Tacoma in Tacoma, WA. The holding facility is operated by the GEO Group on behalf of the U.S. Immigration and Customs.

Once at the NWDC, the person is assigned federal defense counsel and will be brought into Immigration Court in Tacoma for a formalized deportation procedure.  Again, that rarely happens for people held in Whatcom or Skagit Counties, and the summary process at the border, described above, is the one most often used.

For Canadians who may be facing a serious misdemeanor or felony charge in a Whatcom, Skagit, or San Juan criminal court, it is very important that you contact a criminal defense lawyer who is knowledgeable in cross-border issues right away. It can also be very helpful to contact a bail bonds company who can begin the process of searching local court booking records to see if the arrested person has or is likely to face, a border hold.

Contact Us.

The law firm of Lustick, Kaiman & Madrone is based in Bellingham, WA. Our attorneys have defended thousands of Canadian clients in DUI, felony and misdemeanor cases.  If you would like to meet with us to discuss your case, please feel free to contact our support team staff at (360) 685-4221 or you can access our free case evaluation form here.

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