What Happens When You Jump Bail In Texas?
Galveston Criminal Defense Attorney Discusses Bail Jumping And Consequences
I got started a couple of minutes late today, but I had the idea to talk about bail jumping. What does it mean, and how does it work? Once your bail has been set, you can pay the full amount to the county. So if your bail is $10,000, and you have the money, you can go and pay that to the county and you’ll be released upon the final resolution of your case, your money will be refunded to you, minus an administrative fee, which is less than $100. It’s not a big amount.
How Bail Bond Companies Work
If you don’t have the money to make a cash bail, you can go to a bonding company or a bondsman. They’ll typically charge you 10%. So, if it was a $10,000 bond, and you went to a bonding company, they’re going to charge you $1,000. They pledge $10,000 to the county for you. They don’t pay the county that $10,000, but they pledge it.
That gives them skin in the game, in that if you decide to later jump bail, not only will you have a warrant for your arrest coming out of the court where your case was, but the bonding company is going to be looking for you too because they don’t want to have to actually pay the county that $10,000, or the full amount of whatever your bail was. They have a time period where they can get that done without having to pay the county. So they’ll be out looking for you, as well as having a warrant for your arrest.
If you find yourself in a position where you have decided to jump bail, what you’ll find is that when they ultimately capture you, you can be charged with an additional offense of bail jumping. So if it’s a misdemeanor, you’re going to be charged with another misdemeanor. If it’s a felony, you’re going to be charged with felony bail jumping, which is third-degree and two to 10 years. Then, if the state is particularly offended by the fact that you jumped bail, they can stack that sentence on top of whatever sentence you might get on the first charge that you are originally out on bail for.
So, bail jumping is typically just a bad idea. Believe it or not, it does happen with some degree of frequency. We had a client recently, that was out of state on an ankle monitor. He cut that monitor off and just took off. We don’t know where he is, we can’t get a hold of him. We called his family, and they claim they don’t know where he is either. I tried to withdraw from that case after he fled. Thus far the judge has denied my motion to withdraw. on that case. I say it’s because the judge is punishing me for my client’s failure to appear, but the judge says that’s not what he’s doing.
Bail Jumping Angers District Attorneys And Prosecutors
Another thing that people don’t take into consideration is that even if you’re not charged with bail jumping, which is an additional charge, the prosecution, and the court are now upset with you. So the more time that you stay on the run, it’s likely that any plea negotiations that were happening in your case earlier, are now going to be out the window and they are going to want a much harsher punishment for the original crime.
Having been here for 25 years, we’ve had some interesting times when people have skipped bail. One of them that’s memorable, well, this happened twice in a short period. The person failed to appear on the day we were supposed to start their jury trial. I’m guessing they were scared of what may happen in court, and just decided to take their chances.
One was caught within a month or two, he committed a crime in another county and was arrested. We ended up working his case out for a plea agreement, they did not file an additional charge on him. Of course, they did threaten to, if they decided to go to trial on the original case, but we ultimately worked that one out.
Another client didn’t show up for his trial. It’s been a couple of years now maybe, pre-COVID. It was years ago, and we’ve never heard from him. If he’s been arrested somewhere, I don’t know. After a significant amount of time, we were ultimately able to withdraw from his case. I haven’t looked it up in a while, so if he was later found, I never found out about it.
I guess it was last year, Jessica was on trial, they had actually already selected a jury and started the trial, and our client just didn’t show up for the next day of trial. He’s been on the run now for about a year. The bottom line is, even if they don’t charge you with an additional crime for bail jumping, whatever situation you were in earlier with your case, has likely gotten worse. In the event that because of the passage of time, the original criminal case can no longer proceed forward due to lack of witness or whatever, you can probably rest assured that the state will indeed charge to bail jumping and go forward with that case.
Communication With Your Lawyer Is Essential
It is so easy many times for people to avoid any of these problems. Frequently, we have clients that do not appear in court. However, they call us and tell us why. Life happens, right? This happened a lot during COVID, people would test positive, and they would call us and say I’m positive, what do I do? We would say, well, email us the positive results, and then we go to court and show the judge what our clients have presented us
Many times, the court is understanding and will give us a future date. So sometimes people can’t make it for a variety of reasons in life. Rather than contact us and try and see what we can do, they just say, I’m gone, I’m going to hide until they catch me. That’s not the best thing to do. If you have found yourself in a position where you missed your court date, the best thing you can do is immediately contact your lawyer, see what the lawyer says, and then do what your lawyer tells you to do.
I have a small window of time, two maybe three days, where if you didn’t show up, and the court issued a warrant, with a good reason I can get the court to recall that warrant. Now, if that time has passed, but it’s still in recent history, you can still come in. You may have to go back to jail and post a new bond, but at least if you do that you won’t have damaged your case, or whatever the possible resolution of your case might have been.
The whole point of this topic today is, if you miss court, for a legitimate reason, make sure to contact your lawyer, and they will contact the court to see what can be done. There are situations where people make conscious decisions to run for fear of punishment, or fear of whatever, in that case, there is not much that can be done until they’re captured by law enforcement.
Technology Makes It Easy To Find You
As far as I know, I’ve not had anyone flee the country. The other thing you have got to understand is that with today’s technology when law enforcement goes looking for you, these days, it’s not hard to do. If you’re on social media, they can check your social media, they can get a warrant, and find out where the IP address that you’re using to post on social media.
There are just so many ways these days to find people with the technology that we have. It’s just not a good idea to run. If you somehow miss court, get in touch with your attorney immediately, so that it does not turn into a bail-jumping case, and possibly not even get a warrant out of the deal. The courts understand that life happens, and sometimes people don’t show up for a multitude of reasons.
Another situation that has happened to us is that our client ends up getting arrested for a different crime in a different county and is in jail. When that is the situation, you didn’t fail to appear in court voluntarily, it’s because you were incarcerated. In that situation, you would never be charged with bail jumping, and you more than likely would not get a warrant.
However, in that case, your bonding company can surrender your bond since you’re in another county jail. That just means that once you’re done in that county, you’ll be brought here to Galveston, but you will not have a warrant. You will just have that case. If you did all that, and then once you came out, you can bond out again, because you didn’t fail to appear voluntarily.
When you are freed from jail on bail, you must show up on your assigned court date. If you do not, you can be charged with jumping bail and face another criminal charge on top of whatever else you have been charged with. It is especially common to be charged with bail jumping if you are accused of a felony and fail to appear. Our Galveston County criminal defense lawyers at Mark Diaz & Associates can help if you are charged with jumping bail or do not appear for your court date, but contact us as soon as possible for the best result.
An Overview Of Bail And The Bail Bond Process
Courts in Galveston County have leeway in setting bail amounts as long as the bail is not excessive. The judge will usually set bail in a misdemeanor or felony case depending on how serious the offense was and the amount they think is needed to ensure you will appear in court. Further, bail will be set at an amount the judge thinks you can pay.
You often do not need to pay the full bail amount. A local bail bondsman can pledge the full amount and usually charge a fee of approximately 10%. For instance, if your bail is $10,000, the bondsman would receive $1,000 for pledging that money to the court. If the bail is higher, you may need to offer collateral, such as a car or house, to ensure you will appear.
You should be released after paying your bail and giving the court your contact information. However, you must agree to return to court on a specific date and time to deal with your charges.
Bail bondsmen usually check in to ensure you are obeying your bond conditions, such as not committing other crimes and not leaving the county. If the bondsman cannot find you or thinks you broke the terms of your release, they can ask the judge to issue a warrant. If the judge issues the warrant, you could be returned to jail and lose the money you provided to the bondsman.
Also, the judge could issue a capias warrant if you jumped bail and lack a reasonable excuse for not appearing. If you have a criminal warrant, you can be arrested at any time and will probably be put in jail until your case is dealt with.
Jumping Bail Law In Texas
Texas Penal Code 38.10 states that bail jumping and failure to appear means you were legally released from custody on the condition that you would appear, but an offense is committed if you intentionally fail to appear in court per the terms of your release. Additionally, the law states that the statute of limitations for charging someone with bail jumping is three years.
It is important to understand that bail jumping does not only mean you fled the county to avoid being prosecuted. The prosecutor may charge you with this crime if you do not appear in court. However, the law does allow two potential defenses to jumping bail.
The first is that your failure to show up in court was related to parole, an intermittent sentence, or community supervision. The second is that you had a reasonable excuse for not appearing, but what you and the judge consider ‘reasonable’ could differ.
More Reasons Why Jumping Bail Is A Bad Idea
There are several ways that Galveston County law enforcement can find you if you jump bail. For example, someone with a warrant for their arrest is often pulled over for a traffic violation. Also, police use drones and license plate scanners in the Houston and Galveston area so they may spot you in your vehicle. Or a licensed bondsman could track you down at home, work, the gym, or somewhere else. Once they find you, some of the consequences of jumping bail are:
- The judge can issue a warrant for your arrest and revoke your bond.
- You could have your driver’s license suspended.
- You may be ineligible for bail if you are charged with a crime later.
- You will have additional charges, such as failure to appear or contempt.
- The bond amount will likely be increased.
If you have jumped bail or not appeared in court for your charge, the best thing to do is to surrender yourself to local law enforcement and call your lawyer. If the police or bondsman must track you down, it is likely you will receive a harsher punishment.
Jumping Bail Punishments
Jumping bail is classified as a Class A misdemeanor, so you could receive up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. However, if the initial crime was only punishable by a fine, such as a minor speeding ticket, failure to appear is a Class C misdemeanor, for which you can only be fined.
If you jump bail on a felony charge, it is more serious. In that case, it is a third-degree felony, and you may receive between two and 10 years in prison.
Jumping bail can also cause the court to order your cash bond or bail forfeited. So, you will not have your money returned at the end of the case. In addition, if you used a bondsman to get your bond, they can demand their money and seize the collateral you offered in exchange for the bond money.
Why You Need An Attorney For A Bail Jumping Charge
If you have been charged with a crime in Galveston County that could result in jail time, you should always have a lawyer representing you. However, if you are also charged with jumping bail, you need an attorney to help prove it was an accident, so you do not get in worse trouble.
For instance, it is possible your court date documents went to the wrong house, so you did not know when to go to court. Or, if you had a bail bondsman who got the judge to put out a warrant for your arrest, the attorney can question the intentions of the bondsman to suggest you did not really jump bail.
Mark Diaz & Associates are familiar with the courts in Galveston County, including the judges and prosecutors, so they can help you to navigate these tricky legal waters if there is a bail jumping charge. Attempting to navigate the justice system alone with a bail-jumping charge is not recommended!
Jumping Bail FAQ
Below are common questions and answers about jumping bail in Galveston County. Mark Diaz & Associates can help if you have been charged with this crime.
Do I Have To Go Back To Court After I Bail Out Of Jail?
If the court releases you on bail, they usually will give a court date about 30 days after you leave custody. You will likely need to return to court roughly every 30 days until the matter is resolved. If you fail to appear in court, the judge will probably revoke the bond, and you will be arrested and put in jail until the original case is settled.
If you cannot get to court for a legitimate reason, such as illness or an auto accident, call your attorney and provide proof so they can convince the judge not to revoke your bond.
How Can I Be Charged With Jumping Bail When I Did Not Leave The County?
The law does not require you to leave the jurisdiction to be charged with jumping bail. You can be charged with this crime simply for not appearing in court.
My Bail Bondsman Said I Could Skip My Court Date, So I Am Ok, Right?
The bail bondsman has no part in whether you could face bail-jumping charges. After you do not appear in court, the bail bondsman will decide if they will surrender you. This decision is independent of whether you have bail-jumping charges filed against you. Only the county prosecutor decides if they will charge you with jumping bail.
I Cannot Be Charged With Jumping Bail If I Beat My Original Charge, Right?
Wrong. Bail jumping is another crime, and dismissing the original case does not eliminate the bail jumping charge. You can still be fined and even sentenced to jail for jumping bail, but our attorneys can provide a defense to these charges.
What Is The Statute Of Limitations For Jumping Bail?
The statute of limitations for jumping bail in Texas is three years. This means you can be charged with jumping bail within three years of the date you did not appear in court.
Do You Get Bail Money Back?
After you pay your bail, you must return to court to face your charges. If you show up, you will get your money back. If you do not appear, you will lose your bail amount and could have additional charges against you.
Can My Attorney Get My Bail Amount Reduced?
Sometimes. You can ask the court to reduce your bail in the bail hearing. Your attorney may help you get a reduced bail by arguing you are not a flight risk. For example, if you live in Galveston County, work to support your family, do not have a passport, and do not usually leave the state, you are likely not a flight risk.
Contact Our Galveston County Criminal Defense Lawyers Today
One of the things that can make criminal charges worse is not showing up in court. You need immediate legal assistance if you have been accused of jumping bail or failing to appear in Texas. Our Galveston County criminal defense lawyers at Mark Diaz & Associates can help, so call (409) 515-6170.