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What Are the Penalties for Jumping Bail?

Most people accused of a crime don't just sit in jail waiting for their trial. Instead, they are released on bail, a sort of financial insurance policy on their future appearance in court. But when faced with the choice of going to court and going on the run, not all criminal defendants choose the former.

So what happens if you skip town while you're out on bail? Nothing good.

Arrest Warrants

Obviously, if you fail to appear in court, a warrant will likely be issued for your arrest. And if you're arrested, you likely won't be given a second chance at posting bail again.

You should also be aware that it won't just be police officers looking for you. Independent bounty hunters as well as those employed by bail bond agents will be on your trail. While you may have a romanticized view of bounty hunters from "Midnight Run," "Jackie Brown," or "Dog the Bounty Hunter," it doesn't always end like it does in the movies.

Bail Forfeiture

In order to secure your pre-trial release, you paid some money to the court or to a bail bonds agency. Normally, criminal defendants or their bondsmen must pay 10 percent of the total bail amount. And if you skip town, you don't just forfeit that deposit, you now owe the court the full bail amount.

If you or your family posted bail, that means you're on the hook, in addition to any fines or fees the court tacks on. If a bail bond agent posted your bail, it's like defaulting on a loan: the agency will come after your money and anything else (like a car title or mortgage lien) used to secure your bail.

Additional Charges

Some jurisdictions consider skipping court appearances an independent crime, usually contempt or a misdemeanor. That may sound unimpressive, but either can add years to any possible sentence and thousands to prospective fines.

If you need help with bail proceedings or with the defense of your case, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney near you.

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