Consequences of Skipping Bail

Criminal defendants are sometimes required to post bail before they can be released from jail pending trial. Bail makes it less likely that these defendants will flee rather than facing charges at trial. If a defendant does not attend his or her court hearing after posting bail, it is known as skipping bail, and this can have serious consequences.

How Bail Works

Bail is a contract between a defendant and the court. The defendant pays a certain amount of money to be released from jail until his or her trial date. If the defendant attends court as agreed, the court returns the bail money. Otherwise, the court can revoke bail and keep the money.

Courts set bail based on their perception of the likelihood that the defendant will run away from charges. If the defendant has a lot of resources or has demonstrated irresponsibility in the past, bail is set very high. The courts presume that defendants won’t risk a large amount of money; in addition, if the bail is sufficiently high the defendant may not be able to pay and have to stay in jail, ensuring his or her presence in court.

In many cases, defendants or their family members post bail. In some cases, the defendant or a family member may get a loan from a bail bonds company. The defendant or family member pays 10 percent of the bail amount and the bail bonds company pays the rest. The defendant and/or defendant’s family then has to pay the bail bonds company every month until the bail is completely paid off.

Consequences of Skipping Bail

If a defendant doesn’t appear in court on the appointed date, he or she is considered to have “skipped bail.” Skipping bail has several consequences:

  • The court issues an arrest warrant for the defendant for contempt of court. The defendant will have to face these charges as well as the original charges he or she was arrested for.
  • The court may choose to revoke bail and keep any money posted.
  • If the defendant used a bail bondsman, he or she may face a civil lawsuit for breach of contract.
  • If the defendant’s family paid bail, losing the money can cause problems in the defendant’s family relationships.

Reinstatement of Bail

If a person who skips bail turns himself or herself in or is arrested for skipping bail, the court may reinstate bail. The defendant must provide good reason for skipping bail in order to receive a reinstatement. Usually an attorney is needed to help resolve this issue satisfactorily. If bail is reinstated, the defendant is given a new court date and the court agrees to return bail money if the defendant appears in court.

Courts take bail seriously. Bail may be denied or set very high if the defendant is a flight risk or is accused of a particularly violent crime. Once bail has been paid, it’s important to return to court at the appointed time in order to avoid losing bail money.

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