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When a Defendant Fails to Appear in Court: Understanding Bail Forfeiture

Do you intend to become a bond agent? If so, you must learn about bail forfeiture.

What is bail forfeiture?

It means that the court can seize bail if a defendant doesn’t show up to court or violates the bail terms. All parties who paid the bond will be liable for the defendant’s actions. This can place bond agents in precarious positions, as they’re responsible for the defendant who received bail.

Bond agents have a limited window to find agents and bring defendants into custody. This article will provide more information about the forfeiture process. Read further to know more.

Types of Bail Forfeiture

There are two types of bail forfeiture to consider: voluntary and involuntary. An involuntary forfeiture occurs when the court seizes the bond immediately.

In addition to not showing up to court dates, an involuntary bond may apply if the defendant violated the terms of the agreement in some way.

If defendants failed to show up to court, they must give a valid reason why they couldn’t appear. If they convince the court, the defendants can still get their money back.

If not, the court will seize the bond. The court will also issue a warrant for their arrest. Then, the court can issue a new bail amount that they must pay to gain their freedom. Additionally, the defendants will face an additional charge of failure to appear.

If a defendant has a history of missing court dates, they may have a harder time getting a bond. If they do get a bond, the bondsman may charge higher rates.

Conversely, voluntary forfeiture occurs on the defendant’s terms. Defendants can ask the court to use the bond money to pay various expenses, such as:

  • Fines
  • Fees
  • Court costs
  • Assessments

A defendant will incur these expenses throughout the trial process or sentencing. The defendant will give the bond money to the court, and the court will pay the fees. That said, defendants can only use voluntary forfeiture to pay court fees and other costs. They cannot use the funds to pay the victims.

Notice of Forfeiture of Bail Bond

The court will notify all parties of the defendant’s failure to appear. Then, the court will summon all parties so they can explain why the defendant failed to adhere to the terms.

If the parties don’t give a good reason, the bail forfeiture will apply. Further, the forfeiture immediately kicks in if the summoned parties don’t show up to the hearing.

When the court issues notice, the bond company has 30 days to bring the defendant into custody. If not, the court will seize the bond.

Forfeiture Defense

As the person who paid for the defendant’s release, you must explain why the defendant failed to appear. Regardless of the situation, you will lose the bond if you cannot find the defendant. However, the court may consider bond relief in the event of just cause.

You can submit the reason for the bond relief, and the court will serve the notice to the defendant. From there, the court will set a hearing date to determine if bond revocation is applicable.

In extreme cases, bondsmen have the authority to arrest a defendant if they suspect they will violate the terms, or if the defendant violates a specific set of terms.

You can take the defendant to a detention facility. You will then file the necessary paperwork with the detention facility, and the court will follow with a court hearing to determine if bond relief is appropriate.

Legal Recourse

Bail bondsmen have two main choices if a defendant fails to appear:

  • Sue for Damages: Bond agents can sue defendants who violate the terms and cost the bond company money. From there, a jury will grant you award money if you have a viable case.
  • Hire Bounty Hunters: South Carolina permits bounty hunters. Bond agents can use them to apprehend defendants who go on the run.

In many cases, bounty hunters will assist bond agents when making arrests. Bond agents can also hire bounty hunters to monitor the defendant closely. That said, bond agents must hire reputable and certified bounty hunters.

Hunters must be residents of South Carolina and be at least 18 or over. Moreover, they cannot have felony convictions in the past 10 years. They must also attend training courses and pass an exam.

Bail Forfeiture Amount

The amount depends on the judge’s discretion. South Carolina’s bail system is similar to most states. The main factor that will determine the bond amount is the severity of the offense. Defendants can get bail for misdemeanors or felonies. Felonies typically come with higher bail rates.

South Carolina has various bail guidelines for each crime committed. Additionally, the defendant’s criminal history will influence the bail amount. Defendants with a lengthy criminal past will pay a higher bond. If they’re considered a flight risk or a danger to the community, the judge will deny the bond outright.

Bail Forfeiture and the Role of Bond Agents

If a defendant violates bond terms or fails to show up to court, bail forfeiture will apply. They will lose money if the defendant fails to live up to the agreement.

The court won’t accept excuses if the defendant doesn’t show. Therefore, it’s best to take the defendant into custody if they violate the bond terms, or if you believe they will miss their court date.

Do you want to become a bond agent? Click here to learn what it takes to make in this industry.