Getting arrested for just about any crime in California can be detrimental. The bail amounts set for many crimes are so high that most people would be unable to post them on their own. Luckily, there are bail bond agencies which can actually secure an individual’s release, and state law sets a maximum fee of no greater than 10 percent of the face bail amount.
Unfortunately, some individuals either accidentally or willfully miss their mandatory court dates, and this can lead to serious issues for both the suspect and the company which put up the surety bond.
What is Bail Bond Forfeiture?
Bail bond forfeiture can only occur after an individual has been released from jail on a bond, in order to await their court date. This release is often a privilege, since judges don’t always have to grant bail if they suspect a person poses a flight risk. When an individual doesn’t appear for a pre-scheduled court date, this is when the bail bond forfeiture actually occurs. The court proceeds to forfeit the bond and a warrant is placed out for the suspect.
There are a series of complex rules and consequences for all parties involved when a person fails to appear for a scheduled court date. Courts often understand that accidents and mistakes happen, and they won’t always be harsh if an individual has a valid excuse for their absence and notices the court promptly. This doesn’t mean, however, that a person shouldn’t know all of the consequences involved with missing a court date—including the possibility of a bounty hunter getting involved at some point.
Consequences for the Bondsman
A bail bond company, unlike an individual who pays their own bail, does not have to provide the full amount of bail up front. In fact, they usually just sign off on the fact that the suspect will appear for all of their court dates. When the suspect misses even one, however, the court will likely order a forfeiture of the bond. This basically means that the bondsman will receive a letter demanding full payment of the bail amount.
This can be a serious loss for a bail bond agency. These companies don’t specialize in paying full bail amounts. They provide a service that basically allows them to levy the courts’ trust in them to secure the release of an alleged offender. In most cases, if the defendant isn’t in police custody or court within 180 days of the mailing of the aforementioned letter, the bail agency will have to pay the full bail amount to the courts.
Consequences for the Defendant
In addition, a person who fails to show up for their court date may face “failure to appear” charges. This is much like a contempt of court charge, and the person will then have to answer for the consequences of their initial crime plus the failing to appear charge. This often results in more severe penalties, but in addition, the court will be far less likely to grant this person bail in this case or for any in the future. Add this to the constant looking over of one’s shoulder for bounty hunters and detectives, and the seemingly easy act of skipping bail pales in comparison to the end convictions.
Failing to appear is a serious offense in California, and the simple fact is that it will usually result in more serious charges for an alleged offender than they were initially facing in the first place. Unfortunately, these negative consequences can also financially hurt a bail bond agency. The best thing that anyone out on bail can do is to show up for all of their court cases, and if they have to miss one, getting in touch with their bail bond agent quickly is imperative. If not, the next few months of a person’s life will likely far surpass any initial consequences.