What Really Happens When You Skip Bail?

In the 1993 movie “The Fugitive,” Harrison Ford’s character goes on the run when he’s wrongfully accused of murdering his wife. As the police pursue him, Ford goes to increasingly great lengths to stay out of police custody and take down the real killer. In the end, Ford’s character teams up with a US marshal to bring the murderer to justice, who is arrested while Ford is exonerated.

But what’s it really like to be a fugitive from justice?

In most cases, it’s pretty boring. For instance, if you skip bail and leave town before your court date, you might be a “fugitive,” but you won’t be the subject of a nation-wide manhunt-not unless you were charged with a serious crime. The police won’t follow you around, and you won’t have to execute a Jason Bourne-style, high-adrenaline car chase through the city.

However, jumping bail does come with serious consequences-not only for you, but for whoever bailed you out of jail in the first place. Below, we’ll tell you a little bit more about what happens when you skip bail and why you need to show up for your court dates.

What Is the Purpose of Bail?

To understand why you shouldn’t jump bail, you first need to understand the basic purpose of bail. When you’re charged with a crime and put in jail, you have to pay a certain amount of money if you want to spend time outside jail before your court date.

Usually, you can’t pay your own bail-someone needs to bail you out. He or she will probably contact a bail bonds agent, who will pay the full amount of your bail with the requirement that you show up to your court dates. You (or whoever paid the bail) won’t have to pay the full amount of the bail unless you fail to make a court appearance.

In some cases, whoever pays your bail might use his or her home, car, or other asset as collateral.

What Happens If You Jump Bail?

Jumping or skipping bail means that you fail to make your court date. In many cases, this failure to appear is because you’ve left the city or state where you were supposed to appear in court, and this action has serious consequences, including any of the following:

  • The court might issue an arrest warrant. Officers in the area will be notified that you jumped bail, and if you get pulled over for a routine traffic violation, you will be arrested.
  • You may have your driver’s license suspended. The court won’t lift the suspension until you appear.
  • You will face additional charges. Depending on your state, you could be charged with failure to appear or contempt of court, which can result in extra fines and jail time if you’re found guilty.
  • The court could raise the amount you’ll have to pay for your bond, even if you already posted bail.

And if you were released on your own recognizance (meaning you didn’t have to pay a bail bond), the court will likely require you to pay a bond once you’re brought back into custody.

If a friend or family member posted your bail for you, you’ve left him or her in a bad situation. If they cosigned on your bond, they’ll have to pay the full bail bond amount, or they’ll have to surrender the property they used as collateral to guarantee that you’d appear in court.

What Will Your Bail Bond Company Do If You Jump Bail?

If you worked with a bail bond company, they paid your bail on the condition that you’d show up at your court date. If you fail to appear, the court notifies the company that your bail bond is in default. The company has a certain amount of days to bring you into court.

Depending on the state, your bail bond company might hire bounty hunters-or bail enforcement agents-to track you down and ensure you show up in court.

Like the word “fugitive,” the words “bounty hunter” might seem thrilling, but the actual job is fairly mundane. As we wrote in a previous blog post, bounty hunters simply do some of the legwork that most police stations are too busy to complete on their own.

In some states, bounty hunters are authorized to arrest you. Some bounty hunters can carry guns, like regular police officers. In most cases, though, the bounty hunter prefers to negotiate with you so you can surrender yourself to the court. Hopefully, the idea that your friends or family members will have to pay more than they can possibly afford can encourage you to return.

What Should You Do If You’re Out on a Bond?

If someone loves you enough to pay your bond, repay them in kind-don’t leave town or fail to appear in court. Instead, make sure you follow the terms set by the court, obey the law, and show up for all of your required dates.

Remember, being a fugitive from justice isn’t glamorous, and it takes a toll on you and anyone involved in the situation. Use the information above to make your experience with a trustworthy bail bonds company as smooth and simple as possible.