What happens to your bond money after the case is over?

Everyone arrested in Florida (with limited exception for capital and death cases, and violations of probation) is entitled to bail.  “Bail” is the legal term for a monetary condition on one’s release from jail.  If bail is set, then a “bond” is used to secure the bail.  Get it?  The purpose of bail (and a bond) is to make sure that the arrestee returns to court.  The person bailing the arrestee out has a financial incentive to make sure the person doesn’t fail to appear, lest the bonder lose the bond money.

If you use a bonding company, and pay them a premium (i.e. you are paying them a small fee to use their money; they are a surety – an insurance company – that’s how they make money) and you don’t get that back.  If you pay cash, then the State takes the money at the end of the case to pay any court costs, fines, fees, etc.  That’s by statute.  Either way, as stated above, the purpose is to make sure you come back to court.

I ran across a situation today that was new to me, but when I thought about it, made sense.  A client paid a cash bond.  He got out of jail.  He then missed a court date, and a bench warrant (called a capias) was issued for him and the bond was estreated (meaning he lost it for his failure to appear, and it went to the sheriff’s office’s operating account to pay the light bill at the jail).  He was arrested, and his old attorney managed to get the judge to release him on his recognizance as it wasn’t really his fault that he missed court.  He then entered a plea to the charge, and the court ordered that the court costs would be taken from his bond.

The problem was that the bond was forfeited and was no longer available.  Remember, when he failed to appear, the judge estreated the bond.  No one asked that the court set aside the estreature to the money would stay in the sheriff’s bond fund.

The poor guy then violated his probation for  . . .  not paying his court costs, what else!?!  All along he thought that it was coming out of his bond, and no one told him until it was too late that there was no more bond money to take it from.

If you find yourself in that situation, get your attorney to ask the judge to SET ASIDE the estreature and reinstate the bond.  That way the money is still in the sheriff’s kitty for the clerk of court to take to pay costs.

Complicated?  Call me if you have a problem.  813-222-0032.