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Bail skippers not pursued

Posted on July 06, 2011 12:00 AM EST

The majority of defendants arrested are entitled to post a bond to secure their release from custody. The procedure for posting bonds in the state court system can be accomplished in two ways. First, a defendant can pay the entire amount of the bond to the clerk of courts and then be released from custody. The most common approach to posting bail is by hiring a bondsman. A defendant will be required to provide the bondsman with 10% of the value of the bond and in many instances provide collateral for the difference. If money is not an issue, Miami criminal defense lawyers suggest posting the entire amount of the bond. Upon the conclusion of the case, the defendant is entitled to the return of the full amount of the bond. When using a bondsman, the 10% premium will not be returned.

While the majority of defendants charged with a crime appear in court to face the charges, a minority of defendants flee the jurisdiction with the hope that they can avoid prosecution. A defendant who posts a cash bond and flees the jurisdiction is relatively safe from prosecution. Upon failing to appear for court, a judge will issue an alias capias or arrest warrant for the defendant. Unless the case is high-profile, there is little chance that the authorities will seek out the absentee defendant. In most instances, the case and the warrant will remain open unless a defendant tries to re-enter the country and is picked up by the customs authorities. In other instances, defendants are picked up on other cases in other jurisdictions for cases as minor as speeding tickets. In this case, defendants will be arrested and returned to face criminal charges. Defendants who absent themselves from the court proceedings have a more tenuous situation when a bondsman is involved in the bail process.

In cases where a bondsman is used to post bail, and a defendant fails to appear in court, the bondsman is left in a precarious situation. Although he bondsman has received the 10% premium, he or she is on the hook for the difference in the bond. In simple terms, a bondsman will actively seek out a defendant who misses court as there is significant money to be lost if the defendant is not returned to face charges. Bondsman are more successful if a defendant remains local, but have a difficult time if a defendant leaves the country. To return a defendant to the United States to face charges, an extradition process must be followed. To the dismay of bondsman, counties are not willing to spend the time or money to extradite defendants back to court of original jurisdiction. Even though bondsman are able to track down defendants outside of the United States, the local prosecutors' offices are not willing to expend the time, energy or expense to get the defendants back to face charges.

While in most instances it is better to face charges with assistance of a good criminal attorney, a defendant who flees the country can be relatively at ease that they will not be extradited back to the country to face charges. Prosecutors claim on the record that they avail themselves of the extradition process. However, they are aware of the difficulties in retrieving defendants to face charges. Prosecutors from all over the state will admit, that even though the proper extradition paperwork is filed, they have little power to make the process work. While it is never recommended to abscond from criminal charges, the safest way to avoid prosecution is to leave the country. Remember, once that decision has been made, any return to the United States will likely result in being arrested by customs authorities at airports or ports.

Pursuit Rare for Bail Fugitives Who Skip the Country, Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, July 5, 2011.
Categories: Extraditions