“Jumping bail” and “skipping bail” are common terms for the U.S. felony, 18 USC 3146. To be charged with this crime a person be released from jail on a bail bond and intentionally fail to appear for an appointed court date.
In some cases a defendant may be charged with this crime even before a court date is missed. For example, if he purchases plane tickets to leave the country shortly before his court date, the court may interpret that action as an intention to evade legal proceedings.
When a defendant jumps bail, he triggers a chain of events.
- He forfeits the bail money he posted.
- Additional charges are filed, which could lead to higher fines or longer jail time.
- Bail is revoked and an arrest warrant is issued.
Not only is jumping bail a criminal offense, the defendant may also incur the wrath of the bail bondsman who put up the money to secure his release. That person is out money, and he wants it back. The role of a bail bondsman is essentially to act as a loan officer for people charged with crimes who are trying to raise money to get out of jail. The defendant, his family or friends may pay only ten percent of the bond and put up property as collateral to secure the remainder of the bail amount from the bonding company. This is called a surety bond.
If the defendant jumps bail the bondsman may offer a bounty, or a reward, for his capture. A bounty hunter will attempt to track down the defendant and bring him back to jail in exchange for the reward money. Bounty hunting is legal in only two countries, the United States and the Philippines. The amount of time a bounty hunter has to bring in the defendant varies from one jurisdiction to another. It may be as little as three days, or as much as one year.
If the bail jumper is not captured, his family may suffer. The bail bonding company will attempt to recoup its financial losses by confiscating the collateral that was put up when the bond was issued. Frequently that collateral is a home, and the bail jumper’s family may be left homeless.