If you are out on a bond and you fail to show up at court, the judge will often forfeit your bond. This may also be known as an “estreated” bond. At this point there is still some time for remedy, but if the issue is not addressed, you will need to pay the full amount of the bond that you were liable for. If your bondsman put up a $20,000 bond and you paid a $2,000 fee for that bond, the forfeited or estreated bond is going to make you liable for the full $20,000, in addition to your guarantor, and in addition to any other fees that your bondsman has for a bond forfeit.
Remedying a Forfeited Bond
It may be possible to avoid having to pay the full bond amount, but it requires that your bail bondsman locate you and bring you into court within 180 days. This is why there are often “bounty hunters” associated with bonds — their goal is to get a defendant into court within 180 days so that no one becomes responsible for the full cost of the bond. Once your bond has been forfeited it is very likely that there will also be a warrant out for your arrest, as you haven’t shown up to court. If law enforcement officers catch you, you will be arrested again, this time for failing to appear. If the bond cannot be remedied, the bondsman will need to request that you and your guarantor pay them the full amount, after they pay the court system.
What to Do If Your Bond Has Been Forfeited
Because there is the opportunity to remedy, you shouldn’t panic if you do miss your court date. Instead, you should immediately go to your bail bondsman’s office and explain the situation. Your bondsman will be able to give you information regarding your next step. They may need to help you get out of jail again as you will have another warrant out for your arrest, and you will need to present yourself to the court to hopefully get the judgment order against the bond removed. You may also want to notify any guarantors of the bond (the individual who actually bailed you out), as they will also become responsible for the amount of the bond.
There are times when it may not be possible for you to show up to court on your court date. You could be in the hospital or even in another jail. But if you cannot show up at your court date, you need to contact both your bondsman and the court as soon as possible. They will usually work with you to get another court date, assuming that you have a reasonable request and that you haven’t been putting off your court dates previously. It’s always a good idea to communicate with your bondsman any time you think there could be issues with your bond.