If you posted bail on behalf of a friend or relative, and you worry he won’t show up for a scheduled court date, our advice is to contact that person and urge him to do so. If timing is an issue, he may be able to request a continuance from the judge and reschedule the court date. Generally, the defendant must appear in person in the courtroom to make this request.
But even if the appearance date has passed, if the defendant is proactive and takes steps to rectify his non-appearance within two weeks by reporting to the courthouse voluntarily, there is a good chance the judge will show understanding and not penalize him further.
However, if the defendant doesn’t show up at all and a bench warrant must be issued for his arrest, not only will the defendant face another criminal charge with extra jail time and fines, but the bail you posted will be forfeited. Balboa Bail Bonds goes over the basics in this blog.
The Definition of Failure to Appear
We find the crime of “failure to appear” in Penal Code 1320.5 PC, specifically related to release on bail: Every person who is charged with or convicted of the commission of a felony, who is released from custody on bail, and who in order to evade the process of the court willfully fails to appear as required, is guilty of a felony. Upon a conviction under this section, the person shall be punished by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000) or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170, or in the county jail for not more than one year, or by both the fine and imprisonment. Willful failure to appear within 14 days of the date assigned for appearance may be found to have been for the purpose of evading the process of the court.
Put plainly, if a defendant fails to show up or send his attorney in his place, he faces:
- Up to $10,000 in fines
- Felony probation
- An additional jail sentence of up to 1 year, or prison sentence of up to 3 years
- Forfeiture of bail
If the defendant failed to appear for a misdemeanor charge, such as petty theft, he will be charged with misdemeanor failure to appear. For a felony charge, the resulting failure to appear charge will also be a felony. If you posted a cash bond on his behalf, you will lose it. If you used a bail bondsman, the loss of money will impact multiple people, including you, the bondsman, and a surety company.
What Is Cash Bail vs. a Surety Bond?
Both surety bonds and cash bonds guarantee that a defendant will show up for court, if allowed out of police custody. The person bailing out the defendant may pay the full amount of set bail in cash—this is a cash bond. If the defendant shows up to his court date, the court will return the money to the payor.
Bail bondsmen, like Balboa Bail Bonds, perform almost the same function with a surety bond. We post the full bail amount, usually with the assistance of a certified surety insurer, in exchange for a non-refundable premium, allowing your loved one to be released from jail. This helps families that are unable to pay a large amount up front. Sometimes, we will accept personal property as collateral for the loan on a case-by-case basis, depending on the bail. If the defendant “jumps bail,” this property will be subject to confiscation. While you are responsible for paying the premium regardless, if the defendant shows up for all court dates and complies with the process, you are released from liability for the bail amount.
No matter what, if you arranged for the bail of someone else, you are now financially responsible for ensuring he or she shows up to court and complies with the terms of the bail. Having a criminal defense lawyer is an important factor: he or she can also show up on your loved one’s behalf.
Is There a Defense If Your Loved One Failed to Appear?
There are certainly valid defenses for failing to appear in court, such as the defendant being hospitalized. A defendant who is hospitalized is not “willfully” trying to evade the court process, and should not be found guilty of failure to appear—but a lawyer can help him prove it. In general, the defendant is not guilty unless he or she specifically intended to avoid the processes of court. However, the defendant not appearing within 14 days of the scheduled court date sets the presumption that he or she did have the intent to commit this crime.
What if the defendant was re-arrested and jailed again? It’s complicated, but the defendant will need to contact both his bail bondsman and the court, to try to arrange for release and reschedule the original court appearance. Failure to notify the court can also be grounds for forfeiture of bail.
Another worry you might have is if that person has not been complying with the conditions of the bail bond; for example, by violating a bail requirement or traveling outside of the jurisdiction. These actions can also lead to a loss of bail, so try to follow up with the defendant. Honest communication – between you and your loved one, and you and your bail bond company – is the best policy.
Should I Tell My Bail Bondsman?
At Balboa Bail Bonds, our mission is to provide fast, flexible, and affordable bail services to our clients at an extraordinary value. We are bail experts who will walk you through every step of the process and treat you with respect. Please tell us if you suspect a loved one is thinking of jumping bail, has jumped bail, has been re-arrested, or you just want more information. We understand the financial stresses that come with incarceration: if you are struggling to pay, speak to one of our agents to discuss setting up a bail financing plan. The number is (619) 760-2222 and there is no charge to talk to us.