BAIL JUMPING

BAIL JUMPING 

This post will answer the following legal questions on the offense of bail jumping:

  • What does it mean to be charged with the crime of bail jumping?
  • How does the Commonwealth prove a defendant guilty of jumping bail?
  • What is the legal concept of “personal recognizance”?
  • What happens if the defendant provides evidence that he or she DID have sufficient excuse for failing to appear in court as required?
  • What are some examples of sufficient excuses regarding bail jumping?

What does it mean to be charged with the crime of bail jumping?

Under Massachusetts’s law, a defendant can be charged with failing to appear in court after being released on bail or personal recognizance, also known as “bail jumping”.

Commonwealth law specifically states that:

“A person who is released by court order or other lawful authority on bail recognizance on condition that he [or she] will appear personally at a specified time and place and who fails without sufficient excuse to so appear will be punished…”

In other words, if a person is released by (EITHER):

  • Court order
  • Other lawful authority

…on bail recognizance on the condition that he or she will appear personally at a specific time and place fails to do so without an appropriate excuse, is committing a crime and consequentially will be punished.

How does the Commonwealth prove a defendant guilty of jumping bail?

In order to prove a defendant GUILTY of the legal offense of jumping bail, the Commonwealth must prove the following three elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt (ALL):

  • That the defendant had been released on bail or personal recognizance by a judge or bail magistrate
  • That the defendant was aware of a particular date and time on which he or she was required to appear in court, as a condition of that release
  • That the defendant failed to appear in court as required

Note that since failure to appear is a separate criminal offense, it may not be considered by a judge sentencing on the original charge in question.

What is the legal concept of “personal recognizance”?

“Personal recognizance” means that a person is released on his own promise to appear, without having to post any money or a bond to guarantee his or her appearance.

What happens if the defendant provides evidence that he or she DID have sufficient excuse for failing to appear in court as required?

In court, a defendant can provide evidence that he or she DID have sufficient excuse for failing to appear in court as required. If this happens, before the jury can find the defendant guilty of the offense in question, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did NOT have sufficient excuse for his or her failure to appear.

In order to demonstrate this, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant’s absence was deliberate or willful. If the defendant intended to be present in court, but was unable to do so, then the defendant must be found NOT GUILTY.

What are some examples of sufficient excuses regarding bail jumping?

An accident, an illness, or something similar would be sufficient excuses, but the range of potential situations is very broad. Jurors therefore must evaluate any suggested excuse in all the relevant circumstances of the case in question.

Note that insufficient excuses include that a person was afraid of the possible outcome of a trial or sought to escape punishment.

Remember that the defendant must be found NOT guilty unless the Commonwealth proves beyond a reasonable doubt that (ALL):

  • The defendant had been released on bail or personal recognizance
  • Knew that he or she was required to appear in court on that date and time
  • Failed to appear in court on that date and time
  • Deliberately failed to do so

Also remember that the defendant has the burden of producing some evidence of a sufficient excuse before the Commonwealth would become obligated to shoulder the burden of negating that excuse by proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH BAIL JUMPING, AND YOU NEED AN EXPERIENCED CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER WORKING ON YOUR SIDE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS, PLEASE CONTACT CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY WILLIAM J. BARABINO.

CALL 781-393-5900 TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR AVAILABLE DEFENSES.

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