What Are The Penalties For “Bail Jumping” In Texas?
Bail refers to the conditions of releasing a person charged with a crime pending trial. In some cases, a defendant is “released on recognizance,” meaning they simply give their promise to appear in court later. Other times, the judge may require the defendant pay a specified amount of cash as a condition of bail. If the defendant lacks the funds to make bail outright, they can take out a bail bond through a licensed bondsman.
Regardless of whether cash or bond is necessary, any defendant released on bail is required to make all necessary court appearances related to the underlying criminal case. Missing a court appearance may be considered a form of “bail jumping” by the court. And this alone carries significant criminal penalties on top of what the defendant may already be facing on their original charge.
Possible Jail Time for Failing to Appear in Court
Section 38.10 of the Texas Penal Code defines the offense of “bail jumping and failure to appear.” This is not a difficult crime to describe. It basically means that a person released from custody “on condition that [they] subsequently appear commits an offense” if they “intentionally or knowingly” fail to appear under the terms of their release.
It is important to note here that bail jumping does not necessarily mean a person flees the jurisdiction to avoid prosecution altogether. Missing a court date, even inadvertently, may be considered bail jumping under the Penal Code. The law does provide two possible defenses to bail jumping, however. The first is that the defendant’s failure to appear in court was “incident to community supervision, parole, or an intermittent sentence.” The second defense is that the defendant had a “reasonable excuse” for their failure to appear. In this context, we are talking about what the judge considers “reasonable,” which may differ from what you would consider reasonable.
As bail jumping is a distinct crime in Texas, you can be prosecuted separately for the offense, even if you are never tried or convicted of the original crime that led to bail in the first place. Bail jumping is normally prosecuted as a Class A misdemeanor, meaning you could face up to one year in jail. However, if the crime you were initially charged with was only punishable by a fine, a failure to appear is only treated as a Class C misdemeanor, which is also punishable by just a fine. On the other side of the spectrum, if you jump bail on a pending felony charge, then your failure to appear is now considered a third-degree felony, which carries a prison term of between 2 and 10 years.
Also keep in mind, any failure to appear may lead the court to order your cash bail or bond forfeit. That means you will not get your bail back at the end of your case. And if you took out a bond, the bondsman can demand repayment and seize any collateral you offered you up to guarantee the bond.
Speak with a Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
One of the worst things you can do is not show up in court for a criminal case. Running away will not resolve your criminal case. Instead, you need to work with an experienced Pearland criminal defense attorney who will zealously represent your interests in court. Contact Keith B. French Law, PLLC, today to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team.