Bail forfeited: What does it mean?

If you were given the opportunity to post bail but you fail to appear in court on the appropriate date, your bail is typically declared forfeited. 

While this can vary from person to person and circumstance to circumstance, let’s take a look at what commonly happens when bail is forfeited.

Why is bail forfeited?

When a defendant posts bail, they’re basically entering into a contract with the court. In this situation, the court says the following: 

If you post bail and return to court on XYZ date, then we will return bail to you after XYZ date. However, if you do not return to court on XYZ date, then you forfeit bail and we will not return the bail money to you.

This typically involves the bail bond company. 

If the defendant worked with a bail bond company to post bail, then the bail amount will also not be returned to the bail bond company. However, the bail bond company may have additional opportunities to recoup that lost bail money.

This could mean working with a bounty hunter to deliver the defendant back to court. It could also mean selling the defendant’s collateral in order to make up that lost money. 

Let’s use a $20,000 bail example. 

The defendant paid a $2,000 bail bond fee to the bail bond company. To make up for the additional $18,000, they signed over their vehicle as collateral. If the defendant fails to appear in court, the bail bond company can sell the defendant’s vehicle to recoup that additional $18,000.

If you’re in need of a bail bond, this is why it’s important to select your collateral carefully. Avoid signing over primary vehicles and residences. Otherwise, if your loved one skips court and you worked with a bail bond company on their behalf, you could have some serious hurdles in front of you. Using collateral options such as jewelry or a secondary vehicle is always a more ideal scenario.

Keep Learning: Can you bail someone out of jail with no money?

How to avoid a forfeited bail

Obviously the best way to avoid forfeiting bail would be to show up to court on the appropriate day. This way you can avoid the lost money, a warrant for your arrest, and a potential automatic Guilty plea.

However, if you simply must skip court, then we recommend working with a lawyer to excuse your absence.

This is possible if your absence is justified. This typically involves incidents that involve a hospital or a death, but there may be additional circumstances that would merit an excused absence. It’s best to consult with an attorney to explore all your options.

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