Bond Fofeiture and Civil Suit: What Happens When You Don't Show Up to Court

Bond forfeiture and bond forfeiture set-aside


If you have been charged with a crime, and you have been given a court date, there are consequences if you do not appear at that court date.  I will talk about those consequences here.  I am going to talk about Travis County with specificity and other counties in Texas generally.


If you are charged with a Class B misdemeanor or higher in Travis County, you may be released from jail on either a personal bond or on a surety bond by going through a bail bondsman.  With either of these options, you will be given a subsequent court date and ordered to appear.  You should not expect your case to be resolved at this court date.  In Travis County, the first and often the second court date is handled by Court Administration, a department in the county that handles many administrative matters for the criminal courts.  These are called “first” and “second first” settings and they are not assigned to an actual court.  If you have an attorney, that attorney can handle your first court dates in Court Administration.  If you do not have an attorney and wish to apply for a court appointed, you should appear at these court dates and ask for the court appointed attorney.  After these first settings, you will be assigned to a court and told to return on a new date.  After you are assigned to a court, you will be given a series of court dates in the court.  Your case will generally take six months to a year to work out, and you will have a court date about once a month.  If you are charged with a misdemeanor, your attorney, whether hired or appointed, will be able to “reset”– ie get you a new date – your case the first several times your case is on the docket.  If you are charged with a felony, in most courts you will be required to appear every time.  In some, you are not required to appear until after you are indicted by the grand jury.


If you are not required to appear, your attorney still has to reappear to reset you.  If you are required to appear, then you and your attorney must appear in the court to reset you and get you a new date.  If you have a court date and no one appears to reset you, the court will usually enter what’s called a “bond forfeiture”.  This is not good and can have serious consequences.  Within a few days of a bond forfeiture being entered, a “capias” – ie a warrant for your arrest – will issue.  Also, within a few weeks of a bond forfeiture being entered, the civil division of the Travis County Attorney’s Office will file a civil suit against you personally if you were a released on a personal bond.  The civil suit will seek the full amount of the bond in damages. 


If there is a capias out for you, you can be arrested on it just like any other kind of warrant.  If you were released on surety bond, the bail bonds company that secured your release will likely seek to arrest you themselves, which they have the power to do under Texas law. 


If you have missed a court date, you need to be very proactive about getting your case back on the docket.  You should not wait and hope for the best.  Waiting can worsen the damage done by the bond forfeiture.  You may want to contact your attorney or hire another one.


If a bond forfeiture has been entered by the court, in Travis County an attorney can do what’s called a “bond forfeiture set aside”.   This is a motion done by an attorney to essentially undo the bond forfeiture.  If the motion is granted and the order is signed by the judge, a new date is given for the case to be set on the court’s docket.  The capias will be recalled.  If a civil suit has not yet been filed, it will stop the civil suit from being filed by the County Attorney. 


If a civil suit has already been filed prior to a bond forfeiture being done by an attorney, that complicates the process a bit.  A set aside will not have the same effects, as a civil suit has already been filed.  The judge may want you to settle the civil suit first before putting the case back on the docket and recalling the warrant.  This generally costs about $300 for a misdemeanor.  The judge may also mandate that you substitute a new personal bond in for the old one that has been forfeited by doing a walk-through at the bonding desk and being released on the new bond.  Sometimes, the judge will recall the warrant, give you a new date, and reinstate the old bond and leave you to settle the civil suit at a later date.


If the case is resolved after a bond forfeiture but prior to a civil suit being filed, the attorney still needs to do a bond foreiture set aside to stop the civil suit from being filed.


If you have a case pending and have not heard from your attorney in some time or have not been told to come to court, or ifyou know for sure you have missed a court date, do not wait.  Call an attorney and find out what’s going on your case before you get arrested on a capias.  I am available to help with bond forfeiture set asides. 







American Men in Prison: America's Real Fatherhood Crisis

American Fathers in Prison:  America’s Real Parenting Crisis


There are a lot of social commentary in this country every day about the crisis of American fatherhood.  We hear all the time about how terrible it is that so many homes in the U.S. do not have a full-time dad in them.  Blame is placed on the individual man, and the woman who bore his child, instead of looking at the societal factors that take fathers out of the home. One of these is America’s over use of incarceration to punish drug use and other minor, non violent crimes. 


In America today, there are over two million children with a father in jail or prison.  Over ninety percent of parents in prison are fathers.  The number of children with a father in prison has grown 79% since 1991. 


This is terribly adverse on children.  Children with a father incarcerated are likely to experience the criminal justice system and incarceration themselves.  These homes face economic barriers because of a parent being incarcerated and unable to support their children. 


Incarceration for delinquent child support is a feel-good solution that actually prevents men from staying employed and able to pay the delinquent child support. 


What should we do to support fathers and their children who are at risk of experiencing the criminal justice system:


1.        Make job training and education available in more neighborhoods and to more young men;

2.       Make sex education comprehensive and realistic to help more men plan fatherhood;

3.       Make drug rehabilitation and mental health services available and free;

4.       Stop using incarceration to punish low level crimes and non-violent crimes;

5.       Abolish the money bail system to allow more criminal defendants to be released on bond. 

6.       Decriminalize low level drug possession.

7.       Stop incarceration for delinquent child support.


We need to help fathers stay in the home.  Part of this is stopping the cycle of incarceration and allowing men to stay out of jail and at home with their children.


Happy Fathers’ Day!



Personal Bond in Travis County

Personal bond in Travis County:

A personal bond in Travis County is given to defendants whom judges feel they can rely on to return to court to answer the criminal allegations pending and do not pose a grave danger to the public. It requires no deposit. It requires a judge’s approval. Often conditions are imposed on the defendant as a condition of personal bond.

I will talk about release on personal bond here.

If you are arrested in Travis County, in most instances you will automatically be screened for a personal bond by a department in Travis County called Pretrial Services. An officer with Pretrial will come see you in the downtown jail within a few hours of your arrest. They will ask you a series of questions to see if you are a good candidate for personal bond. These include questions about identifying information, address, and employment. They will also ask for references for people they can call to verify the information you can give.

If you are approved by the officers in Pretrial Services for the personal bond, a magistrate judge will sign the bond and you will be released. People without a verified address, people with pending cases, people with extensive criminal history, and people with serious allegations of violence will usually not be approved by Pretrial Services for a personal bond.

You should not refuse the interview with Pretrial Services. You do not have to answer questions about the offense, but you should provide your address, employment, and references. Even if you are not approved for a personal bond by Pretrial, answering the questions and getting the bond process started makes it easier for your lawyer to intervene later.

If you are not approved for a personal bond by Pretrial Services, you may still have a chance to be released on personal bond. To effectuate this, you will need to hire an attorney. Please note: the fee you pay to the attorney to secure your release on personal bond is kept by the attorney. It is not “posted” to the Sheriff’s Department as a cash bond. It is a fee that is charged by the attorney, and usually serves as a down payment for representation on the charge for which you were arrested, to negotiate your release on personal bond. It is not refundable at the end of the case.

Once you hire an attorney, the attorney will get the personal bond paperwork from Pretrial Services. If you have refused the interview, the attorney will have to interview you on an approved bond form. This adds time to the process, which is why you should do the interview with Pretrial Services.

The attorney, with bond paperwork in hand, will then approach a judge to ask the judge to sign the bond, approving you for release on personal bond. There are many judges in Travis County who can sign a bond. If it’s a felony, and it is unindicted, it can go to any criminal district judge or sitting magistrate judge. If it’s a misdemeanor, it can go to any criminal judge in Travis County.

If you are hiring an attorney between 5:00 pm on Friday through the weekend, realize that there is only one duty magistrate who can sign bonds every eight hours. If that judge does not approve the bond, you are going to be waiting until the next judge comes on duty. Often times, you may wait the entire weekend until the regular sitting judges come back on Monday morning.

A judge usually wants to hear several things when deciding whether or not to approve release on a personal bond. The most important things are that you do not pose an ongoing danger to a particular individual or society as a whole and that you will come back to court. A history of bond forfeiture or a long history of violent accusations will heavily weigh against release on personal bond.

A judge who has concerns about the facts of the case or the danger you pose to society may impose conditions on your release. For a DWI, this may include things like ordering you to install an ignition interlock device and to take an alcohol education class. For more serious, violent felony cases, the judge may order you to be on house arrest with an ankle monitor. You have to decide if you are going to agree to these conditions in exchange for release from jail. If you are released from jail with conditions imposed, you must abide by these conditions or risk having your personal bond “revoked” or “motioned off” – ie cancelled – and going back to jail until the case is resolved.

Please note: there is NO SUCH THING as an “attorney signature bond”. No matter how much other inmates may assure you of the existence of such a thing, it is simply not true. Some attorneys can write their own surety bonds, which do not need to be approved by a criminal judge, but the majority of attorneys will only be able to negotiate your release on personal bond by getting it approved by a judge. Therefore, you should understand that hiring an attorney is not a guarantee of release on personal bond. If the accusation or the history is just too bad, you may not get a release on personal bond regardless of your hiring of representation.

The great thing about hiring an attorney to approach a judge to sign a personal bond is that usually the payment you make to an attorney to do this hires the attorney to continue representation on the case after your release. If you already have an attorney, and you want to keep that attorney, do not hire another attorney to “just” do a personal bond. That attorney will be considered by Travis County to be the new attorney on the entire case. You cannot keep an appointed attorney and also hire one to “just” do a personal bond.

Travis County charges a fee to people released on personal bond. Without any devices such as IID or electronic monitor imposed as conditions, the fee is $40 per case. It is a good idea to pay this $40, but your bond will not be revoked if you simply do not have the money to pay it.

I am available to take jail release cases in Travis County. If you have any questions or have a loved one in Travis County jail, call me to see what your options are. My number is also a free call from the jail, and it goes to my cell phone, so if you need jail release at any time I am available to help.

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