Also known as “jumping” bail, not appearing at court on your assigned dates is a serious offense. While the thought of possibly being sentenced to jail time is intimidating, not honoring your bail is a really bad idea. It is important to view posting bail as a privilege that allows you to return to family and friends, continue working, and have time to prepare your legal defense rather than sitting in jail.
No matter what you were arrested for, avoid skipping bail at all costs. Not only will you be considered a fugitive from the law, but skipping bail also comes with the following consequences.
Failure to Appear is Criminal Offense
Known as an FTA, not appearing in court when requested to will cause you to face another felony or misdemeanor charge. The details of this criminal charge depend on the circumstances and jurisdiction you are in, but in most cases, deliberately skipping court results in additional legal consequences.
This charge is also a permanent mark on your legal record, which will make bail bondsman less likely to help you in the future because you’ve been untrustworthy in the past.
There Are Financial Costs
In addition to their percentage fee, bail bondsmen often require collateral as well. Many times, a family member or close friend is the one paying the bondsman and putting up collateral (like their property) on behalf of the defendant. If you decide to skip bail, the bondsman is legally entitled to collect the collateral from the co-signer. This means that your family member or friend could lose their home or car as a result of your actions. You can also be fined major fees by the court for deliberately jumping bail.
The Court Issues a Bench Warrant
As soon as you fail to appear, the court often issues a bench warrant for your immediate arrest. You become a fugitive. Warrants do not expire and are in effect no matter which state you are in. In addition, screening for warrants happens often. The places these screenings occur include: during traffic stops, on passengers of outgoing and incoming international flights, and at ports of entry and exit for ships.
Bounty Hunters Might Come After You
Known formally as a bail enforcement agent, if your bail bondsman cannot get a hold of you after you skip bail, they might send bounty hunters after you. Since bounty hunters are paid a percentage of the bail for successfully capturing and returning a fugitive, they are often aggressive and efficient at tracking runaways down. They are also not restricted as much as police officers, meaning they can often enter private property without a warrant in order to capture their targets.
Furthermore, your co-signers are also responsible for paying any expenses that the bail bondsman and bounty hunters incur while trying to bring you to justice.
The fact of the matter is this: failing to appear in court just makes matters much worse, with greater financial expenses, harsher penalties, and life-long consequences. Don’t skip bail, it’s not worth it.