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What Happens to the Cosigner If the Defendant Fails to Appear in Court?

What Happens to the Cosigner If the Defendant Fails to Appear in Court?

November 21, 2023

If your loved one is in jail, you can cosign their bail bond by signing an agreement to take responsibility for the defendant on bail and make sure they appear on court dates. While this is a great way to secure your loved one’s release from jail, you should be aware of the potential consequences you may face if they miss any court appearance after bail.

In the worst case scenario, you may be held financially responsible, losing all assets you put down as collateral or you could even face legal action. Hence, you may need to be guided by a legal professional so you don’t make costly mistakes.

At The Bail Boys, our team of experts with over 20 years of experience has served over 10,000 Californians and we are here to help you secure the freedom of your loved one. You can rely on our vast experience for expert guidance on how to make sure your defendant complies with the bail conditions. Feel free to contact us anytime and we’ll be right there to assist you. 

In this article, you’ll learn the legal responsibilities of a cosigner, what happens if you cosign someone’s bail and they fail to appear in court, and practical steps you can take to prevent it.

The Roles of a Cosigner (Indemnitor)

The Roles of a Cosigner (Indemnitor)

A cosigner is an individual who takes responsibility for the defendant on bail. They’re usually a friend or family member of the defendant. A cosigner is also known as the indemnitor or guarantor. The primary responsibility of a cosigner is to ensure the defendant’s appearance in court as required throughout the court proceedings. As a confirmation of their commitment, the indemnitor signs a bail bond contract with the bail bonds agent.

However, you need to understand and assess the legal obligations of a cosigner to be sure you can undertake them before you cosign a bail. Such legal responsibilities include:

Take Financial Responsibilities

Signing the bail bond means the court or bail bonds company may require the cosigner to pay the entire bail money to the court if the defendant fails to show up for a court appearance. To secure the bond, the indemnitor may also be required to provide collateral, such as property or assets.

Notify the Bail Bondsman of Changes

If there are any adjustments in the defendants’ location or contact details, the cosigner is obligated to inform the bail agent. Monitoring and reporting the defendant’s movements helps the cosigner keep them compliant.

Ensure the Defendant’s Compliance

Ensure the Defendant's Compliance

It’s the primary responsibility of a cosigner to make sure that the defendant shows up for court dates and complies with other bail conditions. This may involve sending reminders and monitoring the defendant to minimize their flight risk.

Assist in Locating the Defendant

If the defendant misses a court date, the cosigner may be required to cooperate with the bail bond agency or law enforcement agencies to provide up-to-date information and assist in locating and arresting the defendant.

In some cases, the bail bond agent takes responsibility for locating the defendant and returning them to custody using the services of a fugitive recovery agent, also known as a bounty hunter or advanced tracking methods. A bounty hunter is an authorized agent hired by a bail bond agency to track and capture a defaulting defendant.

Alternatively, the bail bond company may negotiate or persuade the defendant to voluntarily surrender them to the authorities. The voluntary surrender may influence the court’s perception and reduce the severity of legal consequences.

Understand the Terms of the Bail Bond Agreement

The cosigner is obligated to understand and comply with the terms and conditions specified in the bail agreement. This includes any restrictions or requirements set by the bail bondsman or the court.

What Happens If You Sign Someone’s Bond and They Don’t Go to Court?

What Happens if You Sign Someone's Bond and They Don't Go to Court?

Failure to appear in court on a scheduled court date may attract severe consequences for the defendant and the cosigner. Both parties need to understand these penalties to help them cooperate better and stay compliant. Here are some of them.

For the Defendant

  • The judge typically issues a bench warrant for their arrest. A bench warrant authorizes a law enforcement agent to arrest the defendant.
  • The court may revoke the defendant’s bail and authorize their detention until trial or pending when their case is resolved. Such arrest and detention disrupt the freedom of the defendant and make them a high-flight risk.
  • The defendant is supposed to get a refund of their bail if they keep the bail conditions. Hence, they may forfeit the bail money when they skip scheduled court appearances.
  • The defendant becomes a fugitive, and law enforcement may actively seek to arrest and return them to custody at any time and in any location. This results in a bad reputation.
  • Failing to appear can lead to additional charges. The defendant may be charged with “Failure to Appear” or “Contempt of Court” which may result in fines or imprisonment – and that’s more legal trouble for the defendant.

For the Cosigner (Indemnitor)

  • The Indemnitor may be held financially responsible for the full bail amount. 
  • If they provided collateral, such as property or assets, to secure the bail bond, the cosigner risks losing these assets if the defendant fails to appear in court.
  • The Indemnitor may face legal action if they cannot pay the forfeited bail amount. This may include a lawsuit to recover the money.

Steps to Take as a Cosigner If the Defendant Might Not Appear in Court

Steps to Take as a Cosigner If the Defendant Might Not Appear in Court

As an indemnitor, if you’re concerned that the defendant may not appear in court on scheduled dates, you may need to take precautionary measures to be sure things are under control. Here are the recommended steps.

Communicate with the Defendant

Discuss the court dates and the details of the bail bond agreement with the defendant. Make sure you emphasize the potential consequences of failing to appear in court and its effects on both the defendant and the signee. Also, maintain regular communication with the defendant to stay updated about their plans and any potential challenges that may affect their appearance in court.

Contact the Defendant’s Attorney

If you suspect that the defendant may not keep to the bail conditions at any point, contact their attorney. Discuss your concerns with them and figure out ideas on how to encourage the defendant to attend court.

Remind the Defendant of Their Obligations

To avoid excuses such as forgetting a court date, schedule reminders for the defendant to keep them updated on every court schedule and requirements.

Cooperate With the Bail Bondsman

Inform the bail bondsman about your concerns. Bail bond companies may have experience in dealing with such situations and can provide guidance on the best actions to take. If possible, work with the bail agent to impose additional conditions on the defendant, such as check-ins or regular updates.

Be Prepared to Take Action

If the signs are strong or there’s no significant improvement from the defendant, prepare to take decisive actions to enforce compliance. You may need to work with the bail bonds agent to apprehend and surrender the defendant or enforce other restrictions to keep them compliant.

Seek Professional Counsel

Do not hesitate to seek professional advice if the matter seems complex. You can consult with an attorney or talk to our expert bail bondsmen to discuss your situation and proffer the best solution.

Alternatives to Signing a Bail Bond

Alternatives to Signing a Bail Bond

If you have doubts about a defendant’s ability to appear in court and keep the bail conditions, there are some alternatives you can explore to help secure their release without the risk of cosigning a bail bond for them. Such alternatives are:

1. Cash Bail

Instead of bearing the risks associated with cosigning a bail bond, you can help the defendant pay bail, especially for cash bail. Even if you’re lending them the money, it’s still less risky than signing a bail bond. At least, you can avoid potential legal consequences from the court.

2. No Money Down Bail Bonds

You can recommend a no-money-down bail bond to the defendant if you’re not willing to cosign their bail. Here, a bail bondsman posts the bail amount for the defendant without requiring any upfront payment. Rather, the bail bond company provides a payment plan that allows the defendant to pay the fee over time. If you’re looking for a no-money-down bail bond in California, reach out to us at The Bail Boys to explore our affordable payment plans.

3. Personal Recognizance (PR) Release

The court may release the defendant based on their personal integrity, considering factors such as criminal history and the severity of the charges. PR release does not require any payment upfront and this helps relieve the financial burden of deadlines on the defendant. 

4. Pretrial Services

Pretrial services are programs that provide support and supervision to individuals who have been released from custody before their trial. They offer defendants various support mechanisms, such as drug testing, counseling, or check-ins, which may contribute to compliance.

Importance of Seeking Legal Counsel as an Indemnitor

It takes more than money and goodwill to bail someone out of jail. Before you act as an indemnitor, you need to properly understand some important details about bail and your role as a cosigner. So, it’s best to consult with experienced legal professionals such as an attorney or a bail bond agent to make informed decisions.

A legal professional helps you to:

  • Protect the cosigner from unfair practices and advocate for your rights
  • Understand how bail system works
  • Assess the financial implications of cosigning a bail bond
  • Understand your rights and legal responsibilities as a bail bond cosigner
  • Provide expert counsel on how to navigate the consequences, communicate with the bail bond company, and address potential disputes
  • Evaluate the bail bond agreement to understand the bail conditions and the responsibilities of the defendant

Conclusion

Cosigning a bail bond comes with many legal responsibilities and consequences you should be aware of if you’re looking to bail someone out of jail. If the person you bailed out doesn’t show up for court appearances, you may be liable to pay the full bond amount and other consequences. Before you cosign a bail, book an appointment with our expert bondsmen at The Bail Boys for proper guidance throughout the bail process.

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