“Jumping bail” refers to a circumstance in which a person posts bail, gets released on bail, and then fails to appear in court to avoid prosecution or sentencing. Bail jumping, sometimes known as “skipping bail,” may result in the forfeiture of the person’s bail bond and the issuance of an arrest warrant.
In some cases, a defendant may be judged to have jumped bail even though they do not make their court appearance. Typically, the prosecution must establish that the person has intentionally avoided the court hearing.
Jumping bail is prohibited and, in certain areas, considered a felony. Bail jumping is considered a different offense from the original offense that prompted the court hearing. For example, if a person is obliged to appear in court for felony carjacking charges, jumping bail will result in an additional penalty on top of the carjacking charges.
Most states require the following factors to prove bail jumping:
- According to a judge’s order, the offender was eligible for bail.
- The defendant then failed to appear before the appropriate court in the required jurisdiction.
- The defendant acted knowingly and willingly.
Jumping bail consequences might include federal felony charges, with the defendant facing a substantial monetary fine and/or additional jail term.
Is Skipping Bail a Crime?
Yes, skipping bail is a crime.
Bail is a set of rules or limits imposed by the court that allow a criminal defendant to remain free pending trial. The words are meant to ensure that a defendant attends court when a trial or other pre-trial hearing is required. Bail is usually paid in cash or in the form of a bail bond.
The defendant posts cash bail with the court, which is refunded when the defendant has made all of their scheduled court appearances. The money will not be reimbursed if they do not appear. The promise of the money being returned serves as an incentive for the defendant to attend court for all of their hearings.
Bail bonds are identical to cash bail, except that the funds are provided by a third party known as a “bail bondsman.” The defendant agrees to appear in court when summoned or to pay the bail bondsman the amount of bail determined by the court. If the defendant fails to appear in court, the bail bondsman or their agents can locate them and bring them to justice.
Defendants may also be released before trial without posting financial bail or enlisting the assistance of a bail bondsman. This is known as being released on their own recognizance, and it is only utilized when the court is certain that the offender will appear in court, even if no financial inducement is provided.
When a person is arrested for a crime, they are imprisoned until they may appear in front of a judge and enter a guilty or not guilty plea. When a criminal defendant enters a not-guilty plea, they are assigned a date to return to court for a trial. When the defendant is unlikely to endanger others if freed before trial, the court may release them “on bail.”
The judge will set bail at a specified amount, and the defendant must deposit that amount of money (or property valued at the court’s stipulated sum) with the court. It will remain until the defendant has completed all their compulsory court appearances.
In many circumstances, criminal defendants cannot access the required bond amount. Instead, they can hire a bail bondsman and purchase a bail bond for 10% of the bail amount. If the defendant fails to attend planned court hearings, the bail bondsman promises to pay the entire bail amount. Bail bondsmen hire agents who trace down and ensure defendants appear in court. The bail bondsman retains 10% of the charge as profit.
A criminal defendant, for example, is charged with a felony, and bail is set at $1,000. Because the defendant lacks $1,000, they pay a local bail bondsman $100. If the defendant fails to appear for trial, the bail bondsman agrees to pay the court the whole $1,000. If the defendant shows up on time, the bail bondsman keeps the $100, and no one owes any extra money. If the defendant fails to appear in court, the bail bondsman will first attempt to locate them and bring them to court. If they are unable to locate the defendant, they must pay the court $1,000.
Some states have bail bonds but do not let bail bondsmen operate. Defendants in certain areas can pay the court 10% of the bail sum. If the defendant fails to appear when necessary, the other 90% must be paid by the person who provided the 10% deposit.
If a defendant fails to appear in court when summoned, the bail bondsman is obligated to pay the whole amount of bail. The court will establish a forfeiture date, and if the defendant is not found and summoned by that day, the whole payment will be owed. The defendant will forfeit any money or property deposited with the court or a bail bond provider. The court will issue an arrest warrant for the offender.
Most bail bond companies have the authority to identify and arrest the offender after the court sets a forfeiture date.
One of the first things a judge will examine when setting bail is the gravity of the crime charged. Bail will be set exceedingly high in circumstances where the crime was really serious (if it is granted at all). The judge will also consider the defendant’s criminal background. Defendants with a history of committing major crimes will have their bail increased.
The judge will also consider the possibility that the defendant will appear in court as scheduled. Bail may be imposed at a lower sum if the judge believes the prisoner is very likely to appear. Defendants with a history of missing court appearances or considered a “flight risk” will have their bail increased.
Are There Any Defenses to Bail Jumping?
To be found guilty of bail evasion, a defendant must act knowingly and intentionally. As a result, if the defendant’s absence to appear in court was inevitable or accidental and was caused by circumstances beyond their control, it is a defense.
For example, if a defendant is injured or incapacitated and misses a hearing, they may be freed from bail-jumping charges. The burden of proving the defense of inadvertent failure to attend a court hearing normally falls on the defendant.
What Is a Bounty Hunter?
A bounty hunter is employed to find and seize a defendant who failed to appear in court. If a defendant has posted bail through a bail bondsman, the bondsman will normally contact a bounty hunter to try to find the defendant.
If the bounty hunter is unable to locate the defendant, the bondsman will be required to pay the bail sum to the court. As a result, bounty hunters would often follow them vigorously if a defendant has jumped bail.
The amount of time a bounty hunter has to locate the criminal before bail is due varies by state. Some states allow the bounty hunter up to a year to find the defendant, while others only allow three days.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
Jumping bail is a serious offense that can result in felony charges. If you are facing bail-jumping charges, you should contact a criminal defense attorney right now. Your attorney can assist you in defending yourself in court, particularly if your absence was inadvertent or caused by circumstances beyond your control.