Appearing for court is a daunting task. The outcome may seem to be uncertain. So it makes sense that not showing up at all would be tempting.
There’s also actually many reasons people fail to appear that don’t even have anything to do with their prosecution.
The truth is that if you do skip your court date, unless you’ve been charged with a very serious crime, you won’t be facing a nationwide manhunt like in the movies.
But you should know that by failing to appear after posting bail you’re complicating your situation a lot. You may be facing additional charges and creating consequences for whoever posted your bail bond as well.
So before bail jumping, know what you’re getting into. Read this explanation of what you should expect to happen.
How are you Found Guilty of Bail Jumping?
Failure to appear for your court date is only a crime if it can be proven that you were given the required notification. An acceptable notification may be just a letter in the mail.
To be charged, your reason for missing it must also be considered insufficient or unsubstantiated. You will be responsible for proving that the circumstances preventing you from appearing in court were out of your control.
There are examples of the defendant having difficulty proving this even when they have a legitimate reason for missing the court date. Courts are skeptical of the claim of illness or other excuses.
Your defense can be made even more difficult if you fail to surrender to the authorities as soon as possible after that date as well. 30 days is often the maximum time allowed.
What are the Legal Consequences of Bail Jumping?
There are a few consequences that will usually follow bail jumping:
- A warrant may be put out for your arrest
- A new charge may be issued
- The bail money paid will not be returned
The penalties for bail jumping depend on the jurisdiction where the crime is being prosecuted. But we can discuss some of the possibilities of what will happen.
A Warrant for Your Arrest
A warrant for arrest means that the police will be notified and have the right to arrest you anywhere you are found. They may arrest you in any public or private place.
The police might not actively search for you, but they will have your warrant in their computer system. So if you are stopped for a traffic violation, or if your information is checked in the case of any other incident, they will become aware of your warrant and likely arrest you.
Once you have been arrested after bail jumping it is very unlikely that you’ll be given the opportunity to post bail again. You will have to spend time in jail until the court proceedings complete.
A New Charge May Be Issued
In many states, failure to make a court appearance is its own crime.
In some states, there is only one charge that can be issued for bail jumping. In others, there is a range of charges you could face.
The charge for jumping bail on a class C misdemeanor can be different than with a class B or A. And the charge may be far more serious for bail jumping in the case of a felony.
It is also possible to be charged with contempt of court for bail jumping.
Any of these charges can result in additional sentences of jail time or fines.
Bail Money Will Not be Returned
The purpose of setting bail is for greater assurance that the accused with show up for their court date. This is supposed to be effective because the money you have paid to be released during the trial process is only returned if you comply with the proceedings.
Therefore, if you don’t show up, the bail money you have paid, or that has been paid on your behalf, will not be returned. This could have serious financial repercussions as we will discuss later.
You should also keep in mind that it can help to stay on the judge’s good side. It’s always helpful for your judge to feel like you’re acting in good faith and working with the system.
In some cases, when found guilty, the sentence can vary greatly depending on the discretion of the judge. This is when it’s especially important that the judge views you favorably.
What Will the Bail Bond Company Do if You Jump Bail?
Bail bond companies are here because many people (and their family or friends) are unable to pay their own bail. There are a lot of benefits to being granted bail. So the bail bond company can help out a great deal.
The bail bondsman will put up the money for your bail on the condition that you agree to appear in court and continue to follow all legal requirements.
When working with a bail bond company, you or your family may have to offer collateral. This could be a car or some other valuable assets.
After bail jumping, the bail bond company will not be able to be repaid by the court. The company may take different kinds of action to collect the money owed.
Some companies have agents that take care of all interaction with the people who hire them. In some states, bail bond companies can hire bounty hunters to track down the people who owe them money if it’s necessary.
Be aware that if your family members have hired a bail bond company you could be putting them at risk by bail jumping. Your family hired a bail bondsman because they are in a tight financial situation. The last thing you want to do is make their life more difficult with another financial burden.
Taking the Right Next Steps
If you have posted bail you should understand the consequences of bail jumping. And do your best to take the right next steps.
If you or anyone you know needs to consult someone about posting bail you can contact us. We offer a free consultation.