Is Bail Skipping Really A Felony Offense?

When you post bail to get out of jail, you're promising the court you will show up for all your appointments. Failing to appear can result in a number of consequences, such as forfeiture of bail funds and having a warrant put out for your arrest. In some cases, though, you could also be charged with a felony. Here's what you need to know about this possibility.

The Charge Typically Follows the Underlying Crime

Whether or not you'll be charged with a felony for jumping bail will usually depend on the offense level of the original crime. If you were already going to court for a felony, then your bail skipping would also be charged as a felony. However, if your underlying crime was only a misdemeanor, then your failure to appear would likely be charged as a misdemeanor.

Unfortunately, it's not unusual for cops and prosecutors to levy the highest possible criminal charges against defendants, especially if they know those defendants will plead out. Doing this provides them room for negotiations. For defendants, though, it means they may end up with felony-level bail skipping charges even if their original crimes really didn't amount to more than misdemeanors.

In this case, it's important to ensure your attorney addresses bail jumping charges in negotiations they do with the prosecutor to avoid spending more time in jail than you have to.

State Law Can Affect Charge Level

Another thing that can determine whether bail skipping is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony is state law. Some states only charge bail jumping as an offense if the original crime is a felony. In other states, it may only be considered a misdemeanor regardless of the offense level of the defendant's underlying charges. Researching your state's failure to appear laws can help you determine exactly what consequences you may face for not showing up to court as required.

Where things can get a little tricky is when defendants reside in one state but are facing criminal charges in another state. In this situation, whether you'll be charged with a felony for skipping bail depends on which state rules the court decides to follow.

For instance, if you live in California but post bail in Nevada for criminal charges you're facing there, the court will likely follow Nevada's rules since that's were your bail is being held. On the other hand, if you posted bail in California through a transfer bond, then you may be held to California's rules since your bail was handled there.

If you missed a court date and are concerned about additional charges you may face for failing to appear, it's best to talk to an attorney or a bail bonds company for information about the laws in your state. If you're trying to get released from jail, contact a bondsman for assistance.