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Will Any Violation Result in Forfeiture of Bail?

/ Mike Tayler

Money gone

Anytime you bail out a friend or loved one you’re taking a chance. If the accused heads for the hills after being released and is never heard from again you are going to lose and lose big. If you paid cash instead of using a bondsman that cash will be forfeited. If you posted a property bond the court may foreclose on your house and sell it to get the bail amount, and if you enlisted the help of a bail bonds agent they are going to come knocking with a court order to seize whatever property or valuables you put up as collateral. As such you should never pay someone’s bail or post a bond for them unless you are as sure as sure can be that they are not going to violate the terms of their release and cause you to lose your cash, your jewelry, your house or more.

Liability of the Indemnitor

If you bail someone out of jail you become legally responsible for that person while they are free awaiting trial. In legal terms you become their “indemnitor”. As such, if they fail to appear in court at the appointed date and time you, as the indemnitor, will forfeit whatever cash or property you signed over to the court or bail bonds agent as collateral. But what if your friend or loved one doesn’t run away but instead violates some other condition of their release? Do you still lose your shirt?

What Other Conditions?

When a bondsman secures a person’s release while awaiting trial the court typically applies certain conditions to that release. One of the conditions is that they appear back in court for the start of their trial. If they do not appear any bail posted on their behalf is forfeit. But in most cases other conditions will be applied as well and they tend to vary depending on the crime, for instance:

  • If the charges are related to a domestic dispute the accused may be ordered to stay away from their wife or husband or children.
  • If the person is accused of a drug related violation the court may insist they stay out of bars or clubs and refrain from drinking or taking drugs while out on bail.
  • If the person is considered a flight risk the court may forbid them from leaving the city, county or state while they are out on bail.
  • The court may also suspend the person’s license to operate a motor vehicle while awaiting trial.
  • Or the court may require that the accused check in at regular intervals with pre-trial services.

The question is: Does the indemnitor forfeit bail if the accused violates these conditions? Or are there exceptions?

Bail Bonds Violations in The State of Colorado

Whether your friend or loved one got arrested and charged in Jefferson County, Arapahoe County or Denver County if you bailed them out there are going to be some conditions attached to their release. Fortunately, the only violation that will result in their bail being revoked and you losing your cash or collateral is a failure to appear in court to face the charges against them.

A violation of any other terms of their release will not end up with you being taken to the financial woodshed. That’s not to say there is no punishment for other violations. There are, and they may be very serious indeed. While the exact punishments may vary from county to county the most common punishments for violating bail conditions in Colorado include:

  • Jail - As in the-bondsman-can’t-help-you, mandatory jail. It may seem harsh and in some respects it is, but there is method to the prosecutorial madness which we’ll get to in a moment. For a bail violation on a misdemeanor you’re looking at 6 months mandatory jail time. Should you violate a bail bonding condition while awaiting trial on felony charges the minimum jail time is 1 year.
  • Consecutive Sentencing - The judge cannot give you concurrent sentences, i.e. sentences that are timed from the same starting point. If you are found guilty of both the original charge and the bail bonding violation the sentences must run consecutively.

What’s up With the Mandatory Jail Time?

If you are the accused the state spares your indemnitor the ignomy of having to forfeit the money or property they put down to secure your release for all types of bail violations except failure to appear. However, while they may not seize the money or property of your indemnitor they can and will throw you in jail for bail bonds violations. Why?

Because the state believes being able to dangle the threat of mandatory jail time over your head for a bail bonding violation gives them leverage when it comes to getting you to plea bargain. For example: if the prosecutor thinks his or her case against you on the main charge is relatively weak they may offer to dismiss the bail violation charge if you plead guilty to the original charge.

The Bottom Line

While your indemnitor may not lose any money or property if you violate a bail condition other than the need to appear, you will still put yourself in a considerably weakened position by violating any terms of your release. Don’t test the mettle of court officials in Jefferson County, Arapahoe County or Denver County. Adhere to any and all bail conditions.

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