Arizona is known for being a difficult place for Arizona bail bonds. Difficult for the client because Arizona bail bondsman require collateral and risky because the State strictly enforces its’ forfeiture laws. Collateral is a pain in the neck for both the bondsman and the client, but without it, the bail bond agent would be exposed to the full loss of the bail amount. Probably half the callers that we receive in a day are surprised we need collateral. Most of these people come from outside Arizona and have had bond experience in another state, but the rest have been told by the judge or by law enforcement that all they need is 10% of the bail amount. Never does the judge or law enforcement mention that bondsmen need collateral. Strict forfeiture laws and collateral are the elements of the cause-and-effect; the bondsman’s fear of forfeiture causes his need for collateral. Without strict Arizona forfeiture laws, bondsmen might not require collateral. The two primary causes of Arizona bail bond forfeitures are, Failure to Appear and Failure to Comply with Conditions of Release.
When a defendant fails to appear for a hearing, the judge will issue a warrant for the defendant’s arrest and set a bond forfeiture hearing date. Notification of the forfeiture hearing is sent to the defendant’s last known address and to the bondsman who posted the bond. The notification Orders that the defendant appear for the hearing and provide good cause for the Failure to Appear. The bondsman is given the opportunity to re-arrest the defendant and put the defendant back in jail, however, this does not guarantee the cancellation of forfeiture. Even if the bondsman puts the defendant back in jail before the hearing date, most of the courts will only return a portion of the bail amount, 50% seems to be the norm. However, the bondsman has to be the sole cause of the arrest. If the arrest was conducted by the police or other law enforcement, the court will forfeit the bond unless good cause is shown for the failure to appear.
As mentioned earlier, the purpose of the Forfeiture hearing, which is technically called an Order to Show Cause hearing, is to give the concerned parties the opportunity to explain why the bond should not be forfeited. We have heard some great excuses over the years, but none seem to work consistently except where proof is given that the defendant was in the hospital, or where a doctor states that the defendant was incapacitated at the time and unable to attend his hearing. We have seen a poor old women beg the court not to forfeit her son’s bond because she could not sustain the loss but the court took the money anyway. We have presented documented evidence that defendants were incarcerated in another county or state jail and couldn’t make it to the hearing and still the bond was forfeited. Other excuses like, no transportation, ran out of gas, missed the bus, or car broke down won’t make the grade with most judges. However, we have seen a documented car accident being judged “good cause” in preventing forfeiture because it was unforeseen. Being late for your hearing will generally result in a Failure to Appear, re-arrest of the defendant and jeopardize the bond.
The other reason for bond forfeiture is Failure to Comply with the court’s conditions of release. Whenever an Arizona bail bond is set, the court will issue a series of conditions of release. Common conditions of release include: must not leave the state of Arizona without permission from the court, can’t come in contact with the victim, must appear for all of their court hearings, must check in with pretrial release, or probation, no drugs or alcohol unless prescribed by a physician, and can’t get arrested. Most of the time, Failures to Comply will cause the defendant’s arrest and revocation of the bond, but in some instances the State prosecutor requests forfeiture. A Failure to Comply can also be a failure to pay a fine. Although a failure to pay a fine is a civil matter, the court will issue a summons and if you don’t show to court, they will arrest you and set a bond amount equal to your fine. If you or your spouse post the bond, it will be forfeited, otherwise it is unpredictable what the judge would do. Some courts set bail as a Purge Bond, meaning that the bond will be forfeited to pay fines or restitution. Child support bonds would fall under this category.
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