Washington state bail jumping for beginners
In Washington State, a person commits the crime of “Bail Jumping” if he or she has been released on their signature or bond and released with the knowledge that they must return to court for a subsequent hearing. Revised Code of Washington 9A.76.170(1). A person is also guilty of bail if he knows of the requirement to report to a correctional facility to serve a sentence and fails to do so. ID. In layman’s terms, if you’re accused of a crime and don’t show up in court when you know you should, or if you don’t show up at jail (or prison) to serve your sentence when you know you should, you’re guilty of the crime of bail jumping.
The crime of bail jumping can be a felony or a misdemeanor. The class or level of the bail bond fee depends on the crime you were originally charged with and failed to appear for. The warranty jump is:
(a) A Class A felony if the person is arrested, charged, or convicted of first degree murder;
(b) A class B felony if the person is arrested for, charged with, or convicted of a class A felony, other than first degree murder;
(c) A class C felony if the person is arrested, charged, or convicted of a class B or class C felony;
(d) A felony if the person is arrested, charged, or convicted of a felony or misdemeanor.
Revised Code of Washington 9A.76.170(3).
Is there warranty jump protection? yes There is an affirmative defense. An affirmative defense means that you admit that you did the act, but that it was legally justified. The defense is set forth in the bailment statute. It states:
This is an affirmative defense to a charge under this section
that uncontrollable circumstances prevented the person from
appearance or surrender and that the person did not contribute
to the creation of such circumstances in reckless disregard of
a requirement to appear or surrender and that the person has appeared
or surrender as soon as such circumstances cease to exist.
Revised Code of Washington 9A.76.170(2).
The question is: what counts as “uncontrollable circumstances”? Uncontrollable circumstances mean that you have no control over the circumstances that caused you to miss court. An act of God can qualify. For example, if you miss court because a tornado lifted your car (or you) and smashed it (or you) to the ground, then you may have a pretty good defense that you missed a required court date based on circumstances beyond your control. If you are in hospital, this may qualify if you can get a note from your doctor that you were hospitalized and physically unable to go to court. Be careful, though, if you were in hospital because of something you did, the prosecutor may argue that you “contributed to the creation of such circumstances.” Being kidnapped and held hostage can also qualify as protection. Whatever the uncontrollable circumstance is that prevents you from making your court date, just make sure you get on the court calendar as soon as you can so that you comply with the requirement to appear or surrender as soon as your uncontrollable circumstance no longer exists.
There may be other defenses that would fall into the “burden of proof” category. This means that the prosecution simply does not have enough evidence to prove every element of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, they may not have any documentation that you were notified of the required court date and therefore cannot prove the element of knowledge.
Generally speaking, however, proving a bail jumping charge is relatively easy for prosecutors. All they need is 1) a certified copy of the promise to appear in court on that particular day, which was signed by the defendant when they received the court date, and 2) a witness, such as a court officer, who can testifies that on the date the defendant was supposed to appear, the court record shows that he or she did not appear.
A copy of the promise to appear signed by the defendant shows knowledge of the requirement to appear. In the county where I practice, the language in the order setting the next mandatory court date reads:
The defendant is ordered to appear at all court hearings
[a pretrial or status hearing]… Failure of the defendant to appear
during trial or at trialable or other hearings determined by
The court may result in the issuance of a court order, confiscation of
Bail and/or prosecution for bail jumping under
Revised Code of Washington 9A.76.170.
A bail charge can be very difficult to defend. Simply forgetting the court date is not a defense. The Washington State Court of Appeals, Second Division, held that, based on a plain reading of the statute, “I forgot” was not a defense. The prosecution only has to prove that he knew the date of the court hearing, not that he knew the date every day thereafter.
For the defense attorney, they must research the law and the records of the case. They must determine whether the hearing was one for which the defendant actually should have appeared. There are different types of hearings and not all require an appearance. They must investigate and determine whether the defendant actually knew of the requirement to appear at the hearing and, if so, whether there is actual evidence to prove it. Is there a living witness such as a clerk who will be called by the prosecution? Is there a certified copy of a signed promise that must appear? Finally, they must investigate the reason for the no-show and determine whether it was an “uncontrollable circumstance.”
JUDGMENTS FOR BILLING:
As stated above, bail is a misdemeanor if the defendant “has been arrested, charged, or convicted of a felony or misdemeanor.” Revised Code of Washington 9A.76.170(3)(d). The maximum penalty for a misdemeanor is 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. In these cases, the sentencing judge has the power to sentence the parolee to 0 to 90 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine. In addition, the defendant may be placed on probation and ordered to pay probation fees.
If the bail jumping offense falls into one of the felony classes, it gets a little more complicated. In Washington, the sentencing scheme operates primarily on a network system. The vertical edge of the grid is the “severity level”. The horizontal edge is the “offender’s score”. There are 16 severity levels in the Washington system. The sixteenth level has only one crime: Aggravated First Degree Murder. The only two penalties for this crime are life in prison without the possibility of parole and the death penalty, regardless of your offender’s outcome. The lowest severity level is one. This level includes crimes such as second-degree larceny (theft of property valued between $750 and $5,000) and forgery. An offender’s record consists of qualifying prior felony convictions. When you determine the level of seriousness of the offense and the offender’s rating, you will find the “standard range” sentence that the court should impose. There are exceptions to sentencing in the standard range, but that’s a discussion for another day. Generally, the court should impose a sentence in the standard range. If this happens, no one can appeal this sentence. If the court imposes an “outlier” sentence outside the standard range, either party can appeal.
Bail jumping on a charge of first degree murder has a severity level of six. With an offender rating of 0 (zero), the standard sentence is twelve months plus one day (which means prison) up to fourteen months. The offender’s score only reaches nine on the sentencing table. Anything higher than a nine will fall into the standard offender rating range of nine. The standard bail range for first-degree murder with an offender rating of nine is 77 to 102 months in prison.
Bail jumping on an original Class A misdemeanor charge has a severity level of five. The standard sentencing range starts at 6 to 12 in the local county jail. For an offender rating of nine plus, the range is 72 to 96 months in prison.
Finally, bail jumping on a class B or C misdemeanor has a severity level of three. With an offender rating of 0, the range is one to three months in prison. The nine-plus offender rating range is 51 to 60 months. Sixty months or five years is the maximum sentence.
As you can see, the crime of bail jumping is easy to commit. If you simply forget your court date, you can be charged and convicted of bail jumping. You can also see that it is easy to prove for the prosecution and difficult to defend against the defense and the consequences are severe.
So a word to the wise is DON’T MISS THE COURT! The wise will not even be late. If your name is called and you’re not there, you risk a failure to appear, bench warrant, and bail charge. Cooperate in your defense, not the prosecution; don’t miss your court date.
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