The Consequences of Bail Jumping in Texas
- February 15, 2023
- The Law Office of Greg Tsioros
- Comments Off on The Consequences of Bail Jumping in Texas
The Texas legal system follows the doctrine of “not guilty until proven otherwise.” It provides the privilege of posting bail to obtain relative freedom until legal proceedings occur. Making bail is undoubtedly better than sitting in a cell until your court date.
However, if you don’t show up when you promised, you can be charged with bail jumping. Bail jumping is short for bail jumping and failure to appear, a crime classified in Texas Penal Code Title 8, “Offenses Against Public Administration,” Chapter 38, “Obstructing Governmental Operation.” Bail guarantees the right of a defendant not to remain in custody and creates a formal agreement between the court and the defendant.
Bail jumping/failure to appear is considered a violation of a court order, and you forfeit any bail or bond. Also, you are charged with a separate crime.
Bail jumping is frequently seen in municipal courts and certain counties. Still, sometimes the state prosecuting attorneys don’t charge the crime because skipping bail already results in a warrant, an increase in the bail amount, or bail revocation. Also, bail jumping is counted as a separate charge that can be filed against you, even if you aren’t tried or convicted of the original charge.
Bail jumping applies to defendants who make cash bail and those released on their own recognizance, a promise to appear in court later. However, it doesn’t mean the defendant necessarily flees the jurisdiction to avoid prosecution.
What does Texas law say about bail jumping?
Current Statutes in Texas for Bail Jumping and Failure to Appear
The formal definition of bail jumping and failure to appear is: a person lawfully released from custody, with or without bail, on condition that he appear, commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly fails to appear in accordance with the terms of release.
The keywords are “knowingly” and “intentionally.” The law provides a defense for reasonable excuses for failing to appear. If you miss your court date by accident, you don’t get charged with bail jumping, provided the judge considers your excuse reasonable. That word may not mean what you think it means or apply to your situation; it’s all up to the judge.
You can defend against a charge of bail jumping if your missed court date was incident to community supervision, parole, or an intermittent sentence.
The statute of limitations for bail jumping is three years, beginning from the time the offense is committed or discovered.
A few years ago, the case of Texas v. Ojiaku tightened up the language for when a defendant could be charged with bail jumping.
Chinedu Ojiaku was indicted for indecency with a child in 2003. He made bail but failed to appear for his hearing in September of that year. The law didn’t catch up to him until 2013, at which time he was arrested and charged with bail jumping and failure to appear in addition to his first offense.
Texas attempted to classify bail jumping as a continuous offense and neglect of legal duty. Therefore it didn’t matter how many years passed before the defendant was discovered – he could still be charged with bail jumping. However, if that were true, the statute of limitations for bail jumping did not start in September 2003; it began when the defendant was arrested in November 2013.
Ojiaku argued that the bail jumping crime was complete when he missed his 2003 court date, thereby completing all elements of the offense. Also, he pointed out that the Texas Penal Code lacked explicit language defining bail jumping as a continuing offense.
The Dallas Court of Appeals ruled the offense of bail jumping is complete when the defendant fails to appear in court.
The Consequences of Bail Jumping
Most of the time, bail jumping is a Class A misdemeanor with a fine of up to $4,000 and/or jail time of up to one year.
However, if the offense for which the defendant failed to appear is a felony, then bail jumping is charged as a third-degree felony with a fine of up to $10,000 and prison time from two to ten years.
If the offense is only punishable with a fine, such as a traffic ticket, bail jumping becomes a Class C misdemeanor with a $500 fine.
For defendants paying cash bail or using a bond, bail jumping causes them to forfeit the cash bail already paid. They do not get it back at the end of the case. If they took out a bond, the bondsman can demand repayment and seize any collateral offered to guarantee the bond.
Why You Need a Lawyer
If you have been charged with a crime, you need an attorney, no matter what. However, if you also are charged with jumping bail or failure to appear, you need a lawyer to help prove it was unintentional and keep you out of further hot water.
For example, maybe your court documents were mailed to the wrong address, so you didn’t know about the court date. Or, if you involved a bail bondsman who then persuaded the judge to issue a warrant, a lawyer can question the intentions of the bondsman to show you didn’t commit the crime of bail jumping.
A criminal attorney experienced with the municipal courts in local counties is an essential part of your defense. You would receive counsel on the consequences of failing to appear and assistance if something happens outside your control that makes you miss your court date.
Contact the Office of Greg Tsioros if you are charged with a crime. We can help you through the process and protect your rights against charges of bail jumping and failure to appear in a Texas court.