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Failure to Appear

Mar 4th, 2015 | Category: Legal Issues & Jails

“The best time to deal with a failure to appear case is before you are caught. There may be excellent defenses and negotiations possible to make this go away, and get you a new court date. However, if you are caught and arrested, your opportunities to argue for a reasonable outcome are much more limited.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Failure to appear, or bail jumping, is an offense with both criminal and civil consequences, including the possibility of additional jail time and the loss of collateral used to secure a bond. It is either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the original charge.

From the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers website:  If you fail to appear in court, a judge can issue a bench warrant for your arrest, meaning police will find a record of it whenever they run a check on your name, or a licensed bail bondsman can track you down and take you to jail. And you can easily be found by the ever increasing police departments using license plate scanners to passively check every vehicle.

Setting Bail in Texas

Texas courts have leeway to set bail amounts as they see fit, as long as it is not excessive. A judge typically sets bail in misdemeanor or felony cases depending on:

1. The seriousness and nature of the offense.

2. The amount the judge believes is necessary to ensure your appearance.

3. Your ability to meet the bail amount.

In most cases, you don’t have to pay the full amount. A licensed bail bondsman will do that for you, charging you a fee of about 10 percent of the total. For example, you would probably pay about $1,000 to a bondsman if bail is set at $10,000.

For high bail amounts, you may need to put up collateral, such as a house or car.

After paying bail and providing your contact information to the court, you will be released. But you must agree to return to court on a certain day at a certain time to deal with the original charges.

Failing to Appear for Court

The bail bondsman usually will check in with you to make sure you are complying with the conditions of bond, meaning not committing any other criminal offenses, not traveling out of the jurisdiction and not violating any special requirements.

Texas law allows the bondsman to request a warrant from the judge if he can’t find you, or suspects that you have broken the terms. If the judge agrees, you can be sent back to jail and may lose the money or collateral you gave the bondsman.

The judge also can issue a capias (warrant) for your arrest if you jump bail and don’t have a “reasonable excuse” such as illness or unforeseen circumstances beyond your control. An outstanding criminal warrant means you can be caught at any time, and will likely be jailed, possibly until your court case is resolved.

Texas Failure to Appear – Penalties

The charges for failing to appear are:

Class C misdemeanor if the original charge was a Class C. Punishable by a fine of up to $500.
Class A misdemeanor if the original charge was a Class A or B. Punishable by up to one year in a county jail.
Third-degree felony if the original charge was a felony. Punishable by 2 to 10 years in a state prison.
The judge also is likely to order a forfeiture of the bond. That means the bondsman would lose the $10,000 put up for your release from jail, and you would become indebted to him for that amount.

Thanks to the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers at http://www.mytexasdefenselawyer.com/texas-criminal-laws-penalties/failure-to-appear/

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Are Texas counties complying with the Prisoner Rape Elimination Act?

In 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice did did a huge national study, ranking more than 350 jails by the rate of sexual abuse reported by prisoners. Houston’s Harris County Jail came in third. To make matters worse, many of those raped while held in our Texas county jails are unconvicted—pretrial detainees—who make up more than 60% of the average jail’s population.

No matter what the reason for a person’s incarceration, the trauma and damange from sexual assault should not be tolerated.  but the prevalence of sexual abuse in jails and prisons has required legal action to address this ongoing problem. The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) was passed unanimously by the United States Congress in 2003, in response to the awareness of these ongoing crimes against prisoners.

As a result of PREA, the Department of Justice created national standards, which are designed to reduce incidents of sexual abuse and improve the response to allegations of abuse. While these are federal standards that do not automatically apply to states, many counties in Texas report that they are complying with the standards. We would like more information on which counties are making changes and what’s really going on in the local jails. If you or a loved one are incarcerated and would like more information about what these standards require and the state of compliance in particular counties, please contact us at info@texasjailproject.org.

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