The act of “posting bail,” that is, paying a fee to the court that allows you to be released from jail until your scheduled court date, establishes a “guarantee” between yourself and the court that you will appear for your trail. Once you hold up your end of the bargain by making all of your scheduled court appearances, the posted bail is returned, whether you are found guilty or not guilty.
But what happens if you do not make your scheduled court appearances? What if something happens that prevents you from appearing on time, or at all?
The most important thing to understand about failing to appear in court after posting bail is that “jumping bail” is considered its own crime. So, regardless of the reasons why you may have missed your court appearance, missing your court date after posting bail will result in a separate set of hearings in which you will need to prove that you could not possibly have appeared in court due to circumstances beyond your control.
If the court does not find your excuses convincing, you may be found guilty of bail jumping, and convicted with a misdemeanor or even felony, depending on the severity of the crime for which you were scheduled to appear.
Furthermore, even if you do ultimately appear in court for the trail for your original charges, the bail you posted may still be considered forfeit and not returned to you, even if you are found “not guilty.” (It’s also worth noting that your obvious innocence in a particular case is NOT considered a valid reason for skipping your court date.)
But what if you did NOT intentionally skip your court date? Well, don’t fret just yet. You may still have options that will allow you to avoid the forfeiture of your posted bail along with any further charges.
Here are some good steps to take if you realize you missed your court date after posting bail:
- Contact an attorney and explain the situation. They will be able to provide the best advice and counsel for your particular situation.
- Collect as much information as you can. Did the court fail to provide information about your court date until it was too late? Do you have proof that you absolutely had to be somewhere else on that date?
- Surrender yourself to the court as soon as possible. You may be able to avoid any further legal issues by turning yourself within 30 days of your original court date.
All of these steps can help you either avoid any “bail jumping” charges altogether or help ensure that you do not incur any additional jail time or penalties for missing your original court date.
Of course, the ideal course of action is to simply ensure you make your court date as scheduled. Be sure to place close attention to all court documents you receive and follow their instructions carefully to avoid any further issues!