You have been arrested and the judge has set your bail. You are ready to post bail and get out of jail, but the district attorney and the judge say you have to undergo another hearing first. What is going on?

You might be experiencing a Nebbia hold. Essentially, prosecutors in Pennsylvania can ask judges to impose a Nebbia order when they want to verify the source of your bail money. In other words, a Nebbia order requires you to disclose the source of the money used to post bail. This is most often the case when charges involve more serious drug crimes as well as financial crimes. Then your defense attorney must file a motion to lift the Nebbia order, and the judge will schedule a hearing on the matter.

History of Nebbia orders

The term “Nebbia order” comes from a 1966 federal appeals ruling that held that federal judges in criminal cases have the power to inquire into the source of bail funds as part of their interest in ensuring that the defendant will show up for future court appearances. Since then, prosecutors and judges in several states have adopted the Nebbia hold power to delay or deny the posting of bail, including in Pennsylvania.

The problem with a Nebbia order is that it can significantly delay how long you spend in jail. Nobody wants to stay in jail any longer than they have to. But you will have to wait there at least until the hearing, where your defense attorney will present evidence that the money being posted is from a legitimate and court-approved source, and not connected to a crime. If you are going through a bail bond company, that could be as simple as an employee of the company presenting documentation vouching for the source of the funds and the company’s ability to post the full amount.

Why having a defense lawyer matters

Things like Nebbia orders are the types of complications that a good defense attorney can help you confront. You need the assistance of someone who knows the system inside and out, and will fight for your rights. An attorney can help you swiftly file a motion to lift the Nebbia order to move the process along as efficiently as possible.