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What Is Bail Jumping?

Jumping bail means failing to show up for a court appearance after being released on bail.
Bounty hunters are often called upon to capture bail jumpers.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 06 April 2014
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Bail jumping is an activity in which someone who has been released on bail attempts to evade a court appearance with the goal of avoiding a trial, possible conviction, and sentence. Bail jumping is also known as bail skipping. When someone skips bail, she or he gives up the amount paid in bail, and a warrant will be issued for the bail jumper's arrest.

When people are released on bail, they are done so with the understanding that they will attend court on an appointed date to face trial. People are released on bail so that they do not have to sit in jail waiting trial, and to allow them to go about their daily business until the trial occurs. Usually, conditions are set with bail. In addition to paying the bail itself, the accused may be required to stay in the area, to refrain from associating with certain people, and so forth.

If someone released on bail fails to show up for a court appearance, the judge can issue a warrant for the bail jumper's arrest. Because bail is often provided by a bail bondsman who puts up the bail in exchange for the understanding that the money will be returned when the accused attends court, some regions allow bail bondsmen to hire bounty hunters in the event of a bail jumping. The bounty hunter tracks down the person who evaded bail to bring them in on the warrant in exchange for a fee.

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If it becomes clear that someone is taking steps to avoid a court date, he or she can be accused of bail jumping before the actual date. For example, if someone books plane tickets out of the country with a flight scheduled to depart shortly before the scheduled court appearance, it is clear that the accused is planning on bail jumping. In cases such as these, the accused may be jailed to await trial.

Bail jumping is not in the best interests of the accused. In addition to forfeiting the amount of bail, the accused also faces additional charges for attempting to evade court. If someone wants to delay a trial or feels that a trial will not be fair in a given venue, he or she should discuss the issue with a lawyer to see if an agreement can be reached. Accused criminals are entitled to due process of law, which includes accommodations such as a change of venue if it is believed that a trial cannot be conducted fairly in the originally scheduled location.

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Discuss this Article

anon358781
Post 9

What can a person do when he/she has been accused of jumping bail, by not showing up for court, while in jail custody on another case?

anon311386
Post 8

I have strange situation. I think I am wanted on a bail jumping charge as it seems to be. I have been arrested on more then one occasion on traffic tickets. I have been bailed out, but it seems somewhere it is an issue even though, as far as I know, I made all appearances.

Somewhere there is an issue of soon to happen terrorist act blessed by higher ups in the US government. How do I stop it from happening?

Emilski
Post 7

@stl156 - You may have never seen a bail bondsman, because some states don't allow it. I happen to have lived in Illinois and Kentucky, and neither of those states allow bondsmen or bounty hunting. The majority of states do have some sort of bounty hunting system, though.

As far as alternatives, anyone can pay for someone's release from jail. The reason you would go to a bondsman is if you couldn't afford the amount of bail yourself. For most small crimes paying the bail usually isn't a problem, but for larger crimes, bail can be set in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

I had a friend who was arrested once for protesting at a rally. In order to get in out of jail, they had a special thing called a surety bail bond. Basically what it was was a condition where I only had to pay $25 to get him out compared to the $500 it normally would have been. The only condition was that I had to take "custody" of him and make sure he reported to his court date. If for some reason he didn't go to court, I would be held in contempt and be in legal trouble myself.

stl156
Post 6

I have seen the TV shows and read a lot about bounty hunters, but I have never once seen a place where you can buy bail bonds. Why is that?

As far as the bounty hunters go, what are the laws that regulate them? I used to watch Dog the Bounty Hunter, and I know in Hawaii they weren't allowed to carry guns. I have also heard that in some states they are allowed to have guns. What are the rules for being able to use them, since they aren't technically police? I don't even think that bounty hunters are usually considered peace officers either, are they?

Besides going through a bail bondsman, what other ways are there of getting someone out of jail who has been arrested? Can you just go to the courthouse and pay for the bail?

jcraig
Post 5
@sunnySkys - I don't think that the bounty hunters actually detain the person for money in the sense of holding them for ransom. Once the criminal is caught, they are taken to the jail and held their until their trial without the chance of being released again.

I think one of the stipulations of a bond is that if the person does not report to court, they lose their bond. Although the bond companies make a little bit of money off of interest from the bonds, it is interesting to think that they wouldn't be able to stay in business if it weren't for someone trying to run away every now and then. That is why is pays for them to have good bounty hunters.

I believe the court gives back the bond money once the person goes to trial, so unless the bounty hunters find the person, the bond company is out of luck.

kentuckycat
Post 4

@SZapper - I agree. In the past, maybe it would be possible to run away from the police and escape a trial, but I just don't think that happens much anymore. Even in the past, I don't think people escaped the law as much as you might think. A lot of famous criminals who ran from the law for a little while were eventually caught, and it is often for doing something like getting pulled over for speeding.

Luckily, I have never been in jail, so I have never had to worry about this, but if you are in jail, how do you get the bond in the first place? If you're in jail, it's not like you can walk down the street to the local bail bondsman and get the bond. Do you have to call someone else to do it for you? What if there is no one you know that can do it?

SZapper
Post 3

You know what I don't understand about bail jumping? How do people expect to hide from the law indefinitely? With all the technology we have these days, it's much harder to just "disappear" into a new identity.

Also, there aren't many countries in the world that don't have extradition treaties with the United States. And most countries that don't have a treaty are probably not countries the average American would want to live in! It seems like it would make more sense to just deal with your legal troubles instead of jumping your bail.

starrynight
Post 2

@sunnySkys - I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I bet the practice of hunting down a bail jumper is probably heavily regulated. I know that you have to get a special license to be able to offer bail insurance, so I assume the practice of bounty hunting is the same. At least I hope it is!

Anyway, people seem to be fascinated at the idea of bounty hunters. I think there has been at least one reality television show dedicated to bounty hunters and plenty of movies that are either fictional or "based on a true story." From what I understand, it's pretty dangerous work, but I guess the pay is good!

sunnySkys
Post 1

I agree that jumping your criminal bail is definitely not a good idea. However, I've always found the idea of bounty hunters slightly dubious at best.

How can it be legal for someone who isn't a member of law enforcement to hunt someone down and detain them for money? This almost sounds like kidnapping to me! It definitely seems like this practice would be very vulnerable to a lawsuit, especially if the bail jumper is hurt in the process.

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