Posted 4/21/2016

In Jobe v. State482 S.W.3d 300 (Tex.App. 2016), an indigent defendant charged with capital murder appealed the trial court’s order that bail be set at $1,000,000.  The defendant argued that the court abused its discretion, as consideration of the defendant’s ability to make bail would have required a reduced amount.  The Court of Appeals held that the ability to make bond is just one of the many factors to be considered by a court in establishing the bail amount.  The Court of Appeals stated that the factor, “does not control the amount of bail and will not automatically render an amount excessive.”  The Court of Appeals also noted the lack of evidence regarding the defendant’s effort’s to obtain bond or the ability of family and friends to help him do so.  The Court of Appeals held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion and affirmed the trial court’s order setting the bail amount.

In State v. Risher, Case No. 2015 CA 0618 (La. App. April 15, 2016), the surety appealed the trial court’s judgment of bond forfeiture.  The defendant was arrested on various drug charges and released on $17,000 bond.  No arraignment date was set at the time of release.  The arraignment date was set subsequently, and notice of the date was sent to the surety and the defendant at the address provided on the bond.  Numerous attempts to serve notice on the defendant were unsuccessful.  The defendant failed to appear, and the court ordered a bond forfeiture and denied the surety’s motion to set aside the forfeiture.  On appeal, the surety argued that notice of the arraignment was never sent to the defendant.  The Court of Appeals held that the State need only prove that it attempted to give notice to the defendant at the address set forth on the bond.  Failure to prove actual notice does not void the bond.  The Court of Appeals affirmed the forfeiture.

In Beth’s Bail Bonds, Inc. v. State, 2016 Ark. App. 183 (Ark. App. March 30, 2016), the Court of Appeals affirmed a bond forfeiture judgement.  The defendant failed to appear for a hearing on November 17, 2014.  A show cause hearing was held on February 25, 2015.  The surety did not have counsel present and the trial court did not grant the surety a continuance.  The surety discovered after the hearing that the defendant had been in jail since February 24, 2015.  The trial court entered the forfeiture judgment against the surety and denied the motion to set aside the forfeiture.  The surety argued that the defendant had been in custody on the day of the show cause hearing.  The Court of Appeals noted that under statute, a surety is released from forfeiture only under limited circumstances, which do not apply in this case.  A trial court has broad discretion in determining whether to set aside a forfeiture.  Observing that 75 days had passed from the failure to appear to when the defendant was in custody, the Court of Appeals held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to set aside the forfeiture.  The surety also argued that the trial court did not issue a warrant immediately at the time the defendant failed to appear, but only when the defendant was already in jail on another charge.  The Court of Appeals acknowledged that Arkansas Code 16-84-207 requires the court to issue an arrest warrant after a failure to appear.  However, the case law requiring strict compliance involved a summons on a surety and not an arrest warrant for the defendant (First Arkansas Bail Bonds, Inc. v. State, 284 S.W.3d 525 (Ark. 2008)).  Thus First Arkansas is not controlling and does not require reversal of the forfeiture judgment in this case.  In addition, the surety argued that the trial court did not grant a continuance to have counsel present at the February 25 show cause hearing.  The Court of Appeals held that even if the trial court abused its discretion by refusing to grant a continuance, the surety was not prejudiced.  It noted that the surety had counsel present at the hearing regarding the motion to set aside the forfeiture, at which time it presented all its arguments. 

 

Cooper v. Hunt, 2016 WL 1213299 (Tex. App. March 29, 2016) involves a trial court’s order for the surety to return bail bond premium.  The Court of Appeals previously dismissed the appeal for want of jurisdiction.  (2015 WL 9480717)  This decision withdraws and vacates that prior decision.  In this case, the surety surrendered the defendant, but the trial court found that the surrender was without reasonable cause and ordered return of the premiums.  With respect to the jurisdictional issue, the surety argued that the challenge of the reasonability of the surrender constitutes a separate action and therefore it should have been served a citation.  The Court of Appeals noted that the surety appeared before the trial court to respond to the challenge.  It held that a person who enters an appearance by filing an answer submits himself to the jurisdiction of the court.  Because, the trial court had jurisdiction, the Court of Appeals held that it has jurisdiction to consider the matter.  With respect to the challenge of reasonability of the surrender, the Court of Appeals held that because no reporter's record was filed in the appeal, the court must presume there was sufficient evidence to support the trial court's order that the surety’s surrender of the defendant was unreasonable.  The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s order. 

 

In re: Chris Hughes Bail Bonds, et al., 2016 WL 1221936 (Tenn. Crim. App. March 29, 2016) involves the appeal of a forfeiture of a $1 million bond, which was posted by ten sureties.  The defendant had failed to appear and was apprehended two years later.  After the defendant’s apprehension, the sureties petitioned for exoneration of the bond, which was denied by the trial court.  As an initial matter, the Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed the appeal as to three of the sureties for want of jurisdiction because those sureties did not file a petition for exoneration in the trial court.  The remaining sureties argued that the bond should be exonerated because the high bond amount creates an extreme circumstance justifying exoneration.  The Court of Criminal Appeals held that the bond amount has no bearing in the consideration of whether to exonerate the bond.  The Court of Criminal Appeals also rejected the sureties’ argument that the mandatory language in Blankenship v. State, 443 S.W.2d 442 (Tenn. 1969) requires exoneration in this case.  The court held that Blankenship involved a forfeiture at the time the defendant was already in custody.  In this case, the forfeiture was ordered well before the eventual apprehension.  Thus Blankenship is not applicable.  The court concluded, “we do not believe there were extreme circumstances in this case . . . which made it impossible to surrender [the defendant] before final forfeiture was entered.”  The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the forfeiture and the trial court’s denial of the petition for exoneration.

In State v. Abushaqra, 2016 WL 1203706 (Conn. App. April 5, 2016), the surety appealed the trial court’s order that prohibited the surety from disseminating, disclosing, or otherwise using a report of the National Crime Information Center and a Federal Bureau of Investigation rap sheet in bond forfeiture proceedings, and (2) mandated that the surety lodge all copies of the documents with the court under seal.  After an order of forfeiture, the surety filed a motion to release it of its obligations.  The surety sought to file the documents in support of its motion.  However, the surety argued that the documents, which were inadvertently disseminated to the surety, were extremely sensitive.  Therefore the surety moved to file the documents under seal.  The trial court ordered that the documents be provided to the court under seal.  However, it also prohibited the surety from using the documents.  The Appellate Court held that the trial court had the inherent authority to enter appropriate orders to halt any further unintended dissemination of the highly sensitive documents. 

People v. Torres, 2016 WL 1162822 (County Ct. March 24, 2016) involved a bail source hearing to determine the source of the bail premium and whether the “bail package” was consistent with public policy.  The defendant posted a house trailer as collateral for a $100,000 bond.  The court noted that, although the bail bondsman and defendant asserted that the trailer was valued at $15,000, the defendant testified that he purchased the trailer for $1,500.  The court stated that it is the public policy of the State of New York to ensure that defendants appear.  The court found that the defendant had no monetary incentive to appear, considering that the defendant stood to lose only the $1,500 trailer.  Therefore, the bail package was not consistent with public policy.

Monroe v. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Dept., 2016 WL 1122097 (Nev. March 18, 2016) involved a forfeiture action whereby the Policy Department seized certain property of a person convicted of burglary and possession of stolen property charges.  The Nevada Supreme Court affirmed the district court's summary judgment regarding the funds seized from the defendant’s house and bank account.  However, the court reversed the summary judgment concerning the funds recovered from bail bond companies and the defendant’s attorneys.  With respect to the funds recovered from bail bond companies, the court held that there was no evidence establishing that the funds were attributed to the felony.  The matter was remanded for further proceedings.

In Lacroix v. Lynch, 2016 WL 1165804 (N.D.Fla. January 7, 2016), a resident alien was convicted of attempted sexual battery.   He then was taken into custody by U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement as a deportable alien, and has been in custody for over three years.  In this habeas corpus action, the Magistrate Judge recommended that, considering the detention of over three years, the Fifth Amendment requires a bail hearing.  The Magistrate Judge stated, “To justify petitioner's continued detention, the government must establish at the hearing, by clear and convincing evidence, that petitioner is either a flight risk or will be a danger to the community, as these terms are utilized in the Bail Reform Act.”