When a person is charged with committing a crime, he or she may be taken into custody and detained at a county jail or other holding center. Generally, the detainee can secure freedom by making a payment called bail. Depending on the circumstances, bail may be paid with cash or by using a bond. In some cases, bail is completely free of charge, which is called “release on recognizance” or ROR. Whatever the situation may be, one factor is consistent: the defendant is expected to return to court after being released. Failure to do so can result in very serious consequences – including a new set of criminal charges. New York assault lawyer Seth Koslow explains the penalties for failure to appear in court after being bailed out of jail.
What Happens to Your Bail Money if You Fail to Appear in Court?
At the core of the American justice system is the presumption of innocence: the presumption that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. On one hand, it seems unfair to incarcerate a person who is presumed innocent; but on the other, there may be a risk that the person, once freed, will evade justice by disappearing back into their community.
In order to grant defendants their freedom while simultaneously ensuring that they will return to court, courts impose bail. If the defendant is acquitted (found not guilty), the bail money will be returned once the case concludes – assuming, that is, the defendant made all of their required court appearances. If the defendant fails to appear in court, they will forfeit the bail money, which could mean losing thousands of dollars.
This system creates a strong financial incentive for defendants to appear in court as and when ordered. However, if the charges are very serious, this incentive may not be enough: if it means avoiding trial, the defendant may feel tempted to simply take the loss and hide.
This is a major mistake. Even if financial loss isn’t reason enough to return to court, there’s another, more important reason to make every required court appearance. More seriously than forfeiting your bail money, you can be actually be charged with a new crime, in addition to the existing charges, simply for failing to appear when you were supposed to. This offense is referred to as “bail-jumping,” “failure to appear” (FTA), or “skipping bail.”
What Are the Consequences of Bail-Jumping in New York City?
In New York, criminal offenses are broadly split into two categories: lesser offenses known as misdemeanors, and serious crimes called felonies, such as robbery or burglary. There are three types of misdemeanors – unclassified misdemeanors, Class B misdemeanors, and Class A misdemeanors – and five types of felonies: Class E felonies, Class D felonies, Class C felonies, Class B felonies, and Class A felonies.
These classifications are important because they have bearing on the way a bail-jumping offense will be categorized and, in turn, penalized. If the underlying charge for which the defendant jumped bail was a Class A felony or Class B felony, the offense is bail-jumping in the first degree, which is a Class D felony, subject to a fine of up to $5,000 and a sentence of up to seven years in prison. Under the pertinent statute, NY Penal Law § 215.57, a person can be charged with this crime if they fail to “appear personally [in court] on the required date,” or fail to “voluntarily [appear] within thirty days thereafter.”
Bail-jumping in the second degree, a criminal offense under NY Penal Law § 215.56, is slightly less serious but still carries severe penalties. If you have been charged with a Class E, Class D, or Class C felony and fail to appear in court, or fail to voluntarily appear within 30 days, you will be charged with this offense. Bail-jumping in the second degree is a Class E felony, which is subject to a fine of up to $5,000 and a prison sentence of up to four years.
Bail-jumping in the third degree, which is defined under NY Penal Law § 215.55, is charged when a defendant fails to appear in court, or fails to voluntarily appear within 30 days, in relation to a misdemeanor offense. Third degree bail-jumping is a Class A misdemeanor, which can lead to a maximum fine of $1,000 and a maximum sentence of one year in jail.
New York Criminal Defense Lawyer Handling Felony and Misdemeanor Cases
Going to court can be a difficult experience, but it is critical that you make all court appearances if you have been accused of committing a crime in New York City. Failure to appear will not make your case go away, but on the contrary, merely complicate your existing case by heaping additional charges atop the allegations you are already facing.
Let an experienced New York defense attorney prepare you for court, help guide you through New York’s often-confusing justice system, protect your legal rights, and fight the charges against you. Criminal defense lawyer Seth Koslow handles an array of felony and misdemeanor charges in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, Staten Island, and the Bronx, including but not limited to:
- Drug Crimes
- DWI (Driving While Intoxicated)
- Sex Crimes
- Theft Charges
- Weapons Possession
For a free legal consultation, call the law offices of Seth Koslow at (347) 561-0025 today. Your information will be kept confidential.