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Why Do So Many Defendants Fail to Appear in Court?

 Posted on October 10, 2019 in Bail Bonds

Doc's Bail Bonds

Failing to appear in court will forfeit your bail bond deposit, return you to jail, and force you to put money down on a new bail bond. With consequences like these, who would miss a court date?

According to research by the Bureau of Justice from 1990-2004, the vast majority of defendants who miss their court date isn't because they're trying to flee town. Here are a few reasons why people often miss their court date, even when the stakes are high.

Defendants Have Extenuating Circumstances

Prosecutors often say that suspects failing to appear in court is a means of evading justice. But oftentimes, it's extenuating circumstances that keep folks from showing up in court.

Jonathan Broad, a 57-year-old man residing in a New York City homeless shelter, was arrested for drug possession. Broad was suffering from heart trouble, asthma and diabetes. His bail was set to $3,000. When he couldn't pay his bail amount, Broad knew that getting locked up in jail could be his death.

In Broad's case, he couldn't show up on extenuating circumstances. When Broad appeared in court, the judge was unmoved by his month-long hospitalization. Brooklyn Community Bail Fund paid his bail, and Broad showed up to his initial court dates after his release. But he soon had to be hospitalized again, missing a court date in July. By August, Broad – still hospitalized – was issued a warrant by the courts for missing too many court dates.

‘Failure to Appear' Cases are Usually the Disadvantaged

Critics complain that letting defendants out of jail without paying bail will lower their chances of appearing in court, but most of who miss court aren't on the run, but marginalized: the homeless, poor, or mentally deranged.

In the case of Jonathan Broad, being in jail meant aggravated medical conditions, leading to hospitalization. Missing court dates while in the hospital led the court to issue another warrant with another bail bond. Research shows that the only way to help the disadvantaged get through the process is to help them pay their bail, make it to court dates, and help ease the process for homeless or disadvantaged defendants.

What is Bail For?

The system of cash bail comes from medieval England to make sure persons were held in custody so they wouldn't flee town. Now, the cash bail system is keeping people incarcerated before trial. Those accused of minor crimes and misdemeanors must wait in jail for their trial unless they can afford to pay for bail.

The numbers of people waiting in jail today is astronomical. As reported by the Bureau of Justice, almost 500,000 people across the nation are in jail awaiting trial, the majority of which would be able to escape if they could afford to. Anyone in jail for not paying their bail is also considered unconvicted, and is thereby 'innocent until proven guilty' under Constitutional law.

Why Can't Defendants Reschedule?

When a person misses an appointment with their doctor, they can reschedule it, right? Not so with court dates. In theory, paying one's bail is meant to ensure that people don't miss their court date, but studies find that the opposite is true. Traci Schlesinger, Pretrial Justice Institute board member, says that when defendants miss their first court date, but do appear for their second and third, they aren't ‘failing to appear'. The number on cause of an FTA (failure to appear) is forgetfulness or any situation outside the defendant's control. The defendant may need to take care of child care, can't take off work, or simply doesn't understand the terms and conditions on their court-issued ticket, which lists a mandatory court date often months into the future.

Statistics on ‘Failure to Appear'

The study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics from 1990-2004 showed that over three quarters of those arrested on criminal charges did show up for their court date. And the ones who failed to appear, 94 84 of them showed up within the year. In the end, most defendants who miss their first few dates end up making it to court. And conversely, those who came to their initial court dates and still haven't received a verdict will often miss their fifth or sixth court date, unable to take off work or just tired of the judiciary proceedings. Eventually, one way or another, most defendants do make it to court when they find out about the consequences.

Call Doc's Bail Bonds for a quick and easy bail out. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, our bondsmen are one phone call away.

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