Bail Jumping – What the Charge Means in Washington and Some Possibilities for Defense

Have you missed a court date? And you are now worrying how that’s going to affect you? Or have you already been charged with bail jumping or failure to appear? In Washington this is taken very seriously and does have some harsh penalties. Things do come up in life. We know that. You may very well have a legitimate reason to have missed your court date. You will want to get your story heard.

Bail jumping or failure to appear is charged when, for whatever reason, you missed a scheduled court hearing of which you were notified. The penalties depend on the severity of the original crime with which you had been charged.  If you were charged with a misdemeanor the potential penalties are up to 1 year in jail and a fine up to $5000. If you were charged with a class B or C felony, Then bail jumping is also a class C Felony (maximum of 5 years in prison and $10,000.00 fine).  If you were charged with a class A felony, the bail jump is a class B Felony (a maximum of 10 years in jail and a fine up to $20,000).  Lastly, if you allegedly bail jumped while facing a Murder charge then the Bail Jump itself is a class A felony.  

Plus there are what could be called “collateral” penalties. If you were out on bail then your bond is now forfeit. You may now be denied bail. If you are granted bail it will likely be increased and the chances that a bail bondsman will accept your bond is less likely as it will be on their mind that you have already failed to appear once before. So, as you can see – even at the lowest level you’re facing jail time and a hefty fine.
Due to some misconceptions that are commonly held you may be confused as to why or how you can be charged with bail jumping. If you were released on your recognizance you may be thinking, “I wasn’t out on bail, so how can they charge me with bail jumping?” Remember that the crime is also known as failure to appear. The court is actually not concerned whether there was bail involved – if you miss a court date that is duly scheduled and notified you can be charged with this crime. Some people think they need to flee to another state to be charged with bail jumping. This is not the case. Even if you just forgot and went to your job or stayed at your home you can still be charged.

Some people are lucky enough to have an understanding bail bondsman who says they won’t bring you in after you talk to them. Realize though, the police have the right to bring you in but even if your bail bondsman does not – it is not ultimately the decision of your bail bondsman alone. The prosecution adds it to your already existing charges. Also realize that this charge is separate from the original charge. Even if your original charge is successfully dismissed or you get a “not guilty” for the original charge you can still be charged with bail jumping and the penalties will still be dependent on the severity of the crime charged. Hopefully that clears up any major misconceptions – if there are still questions about the charge along these lines you will want to voice your concerns to your defense attorney.

So, yes, you do want to take this charge seriously and your defense attorney will take it very seriously. But it’s not hopeless – don’t give up. There are options for a defense strategy. This is the time to think about your circumstances. Simply saying, “I forgot”, won’t be seen as a defense. But what was the reason you forgot? Did you need to deal with life circumstances that were out of your control? Did your car break down and you had no other mode of transportation? Were you hospitalized? If so, you will want to provide the documentation. Was there a death in the family or other family emergency? These all may be able to be used as a defense – remember that judges and juries are people too and sometimes what it takes is just to have one sympathetic person. Were you actually notified? It’s very rare but sometimes people are not notified correctly of their court dates. If you can show that this is your situation then the new charge of bail jumping may be able to be dismissed. Remember that the prosecution needs to prove all elements of any given crime and one element of bail jumping is that you needed to be knowledgeable of the court date.

So, yes this is a separate charge and it is, as mentioned, just as potentially serious as the original crime that was charged. But, as you can also see, there are options to defend you against this charge. You will want to consult with a Pierce County / Tacoma defense attorney about this charge as well as the original charge.

Call the law office of Smith & White, PLLC – the first consultation is free.

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