What Happens if a Defendant Flees After Making Bond?

November 22, 2023 Criminal Defense

Aside from defendants charged with a capital offense or life felony, the Florida Criminal Punishment Code (CPC) provides that defendants have the right to pretrial release on reasonable conditions. A common form of release for criminal defendants is through a surety bond.

When a defendant can post bond, it allows them to be released from prison under the agreement that the defendant will appear for all upcoming hearings and legal proceedings. What happens, then, if a defendant posts bond and then attempts to flee the state?

Continue reading to learn more about the conditions for the forfeiture of a defendant’s bond, who holds jurisdiction over fugitives from justice, and an example case of a Florida defendant who allegedly fled after posting bond.

Conditions for Forfeiture of Bond

Florida Statute Section 941.18 provides that a defendant who is admitted bond and then fails to appear or surrender themselves as according to their conditions of bond or pretrial release results in the judge declaring the bond forfeited. In legal terms, a forfeiture means losing a right, privilege, or property as consequence of violating a law, breaching a legal obligation, or failing to perform a contractual legal duty. So, when a bond is determined “forfeited,” it implies that a defendant has violated the terms of their bond. When this happens, the judge shall order the immediate arrest of the defendant without a warrant if he or she is within the state.

Under Florida Statute Section 903.26(1), a bail bond shall not be forfeited unless:

  • The information, indictment, or affidavit was filed within six months from the date of the arrest; and
  • The clerk of court gave the surety (person or company who guarantees the performance of the person granted bond) at least 72 hours’ notice before the time of the required appearance of the defendant.

Once a bond is considered forfeited, the clerk of courts is responsible for sending out a notice to whichever person or company granted the bond within five days. There is then a 60-day window for the forfeiture to be paid after the notice was mailed or electronically submitted.

Under Florida Statue Section 903.26(5), the court shall discharge a forfeiture in 60 days in scenarios where the defendant was unable to appear due to circumstances beyond their control.

Fugitives from Florida

When a person attempts to flee from justice, they are referred to as a “fugitive.” Reasons a defendant may attempt to flee their jurisdiction include:

  • To avoid criminal prosecution;
  • To evade the investigative efforts of law enforcement; or
  • To avoid punishment.

Florida Statute Section 941.22 provides the executive authority the Florida Governor holds regarding fugitives from Florida.

The law explains that the Governor shall issue a warrant for arrest under the seal of Florida, to some agent or Marshall, commanding to receive the fugitive to the proper officer of the Florida county where the offense occurred for any of the following scenarios:

  • The defendant escaped confinement; or
  • The defendant broke the terms of their probation or bail.

Additionally, individuals who are considered fugitives from justice are prohibited from possessing a firearm.

Florida Criminal Punishment Code

Under Florida’s Rules of Criminal Procedure 3.131(f)-(g), the court has discretion to commit a defendant to the custody of the proper official to abide by the judgement, sentence, and further order of the court.

The Court may direct the arrest and commitment of a defendant who is considered a fugitive “at large on bail” in the following scenarios:

  1. There has been a breach of the undertaking;
  2. The defendant’s sureties are insufficient, cannot be found, or have ceased to reside in this state; or
  3. The court is satisfied that the bond should be increased, or there is additional security required.

Example Case

In the example case provided below, a defendant accused of stealing from the Jefferson County Court funds has allegedly fled the state since posting bond, resulting in the filing of an emergency motion to revoke his bond.

According to a local report, Warran “Charles” Culp, Jr. was arrested on September 19, 2023, and charged with several fraud and grand theft charges. Culp, along with former Jefferson County Clerk of Court Kirk Reams and one other former court employee were accused of “plott[ing] to illegally enrich themselves” and defraud Jefferson County out of more than $800,000 in public funds.

During his first court hearing on the 21st, court documents indicate that Culp testified saying that he held no passport or plans to flee the state.

Culp also claimed that he would agree to all bond conditions. Included in the bond agreement was the order to remain in Florida or Georgia. The same day as his hearing, Culp posted a $170,000 bond and was released.

According to an email from Culp’s bondsperson, he informed State Attorney Jack Campbell that Culp’s wife reported him as gone. She claimed that Culp packed a “sleeping bag, pillows, [a] bathroom bag,” and other essential items before fleeing home. Culp’s bondsperson reported that the defendant “has never appeared to sign his bond contract and is now believed to be fleeing justice.”

Culp’s defense attorney, Ryan Davis, said he has “no knowledge” of his client’s whereabouts.

The next court date for Culp is his arraignment set for November 6, 2023. Due to concerns of Culp being a fugitive from justice, Campbell has filed an emergency motion to request that the judge revokes Culp’s bond.

Consult with a Tallahassee, Florida Defense Attorney

If you are granted pretrial release after being arrested for a criminal offense in Florida, it is imperative that you follow all laws and requirements within the agreement. Failure to comply with the set guidelines can result in your bond being revoked. If you fail to appear at the required hearings after posting bond, there will be a warrant issued for your arrest. All these scenarios are extremely serious and should not be taken lightly.

If you have any questions regarding bonds or the terms of your pretrial release, consider consulting with a Tallahassee, FL criminal defense attorney. A defense attorney can provide you with insight into the legal proceedings and ensure all your rights are protected. Contact Pumphrey Law Firm today at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.

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