Bond Forfeitures

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Bond forfeitures are not designed to make money for the State nor to punish bondsmen.  Instead, they are a last resort attempt to ensure that a defendant appears for court.

The Forfeiture Process

The defendant and his bondsman are sent notice of a hearing, such as an arraignment.  This notice must be sent at least seventy-two hours in advance of the hearing.  It goes to the address listed on the bond.  If the defendant fails to appear, then the State may ask for a bond revocation and also a forfeiture of the bond.

The court then forfeits the bond and sets a hearing on the matter.  By statute, the hearing occurs 120 to 150 days from the date of the failure to appear.  Notice of the hearing is provided to the bondsman either via personal service or by using certified mail.  The notice must be provided to the bondsman within 10 days of the failure to appear.  At the forfeiture hearing, the court may enter a judgment against the bondsman.  The judge will then enter a writ of fieri facias (fi-fa) which allows the Sheriff to collect the proceeds of the bond.  This is usually done by the bondsman paying the face of the bond.

How To Avoid Bond Forfeiture

Ensuring the defendant appears when called avoids the forfeiture process.  However, there are situations where a defendant slips away without the knowledge of his bondsman.  If the defendant is incarcerated or in custody at the time of his failure to appear, then the bond is not forfeited. 

After the bond is forfeited and the bondsman pays, he still has the ability to recover some of the money.  The faster the recovery, the greater the amount of money he collects.  If the judgment is paid within 120 days and the defendant is recovered and prosecuted, the bondsman may recover up to ninety-five percent of the bond.  If the defendant is recovered within two years, the bondsman may recover up to fifty-percent of the bond.  Any costs to the State to get the defendant back are subtracted from the money that may be recovered.

If a defendant facing felony charges is not prosecuted in two years, then the bondsman may apply for relief from liability.  This is through a standard form.  The clerk reviews the facts and the judge determines whether relief is appropriate.

A bondsman is automatically released from liability if there is a disposition on the case.  This includes pre-trial diversion, dead-docketing, deferred sentence, or the death of the defendant.  In some circumstances, release is also appropriate when the defendant used a false name to obtain the bond or if the bondsman acted with due diligence in attempting to recover the defendant.

A bondsman may surrender the bond and be relieved of liability.  If court is not in session, the bondsman may surrender the defendant to a law enforcement officer in that jurisdiction.  If court is in session, the bondsman may surrender the defendant in open court.
 

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