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What is Bail Jumping or Failure to Appear in New York?

Last updated on: March 15, 2024

By Lebedin Kofman LLP

Bail jumping, also known as “skipping bail” or “failure to appear,” is a criminal offense that occurs when an individual who has been released on bail fails to comply with the terms and conditions of their release or fails to appear in court as required. It is generally considered a separate crime from the original offense for which the individual was arrested and bailed out and can result in additional punishment. 

If you have been charged with bail jumping in New York, it is important to understand the potential consequences the charges can have on your future. Getting the help of an experienced New York City criminal defense attorney can help you get an insight into your charges and give you the skilled representation you need to protect your rights. Our team of skilled criminal defense attorneys in New York can assist you by investigating the details of your case and building a robust legal defense strategy. Contact us today at (646) 663-4430 for a free legal consultation.

Understanding Bail and Bail Conditions

Bail is a set amount of money or property that is deposited with the court to ensure that an individual who has been arrested and charged with a crime will return to court on their assigned court date. The purpose of bail is to allow a defendant to remain free while awaiting trial, but also to provide an incentive for them to appear in court when required. If the defendant appears for all of their scheduled court dates, the bail amount is typically returned to them or the person who paid it on their behalf, minus any court fees or fines.

When a defendant is released on bail, they are usually required to adhere to certain conditions. These may include, but are not limited to, the following: 

  • Staying within a specified jurisdiction
  • Avoiding contact with alleged victims or witnesses
  • Abiding by a curfew
  • Attending all court appearances
  • Reporting to law enforcement or a bail bondsman, as directed
  • Not committing any new offenses

Violating any of these conditions can result in bail being revoked and the defendant being returned to custody.

What Constitutes Bail Jumping

Bail jumping occurs when a defendant intentionally violates the terms of their release on bail. The most common offense associated with bail jumping is a failure to appear in court, but other violations of bail conditions can also constitute bail jumping. Intent is a crucial factor in determining whether a violation is considered bail jumping. If a defendant misses a court appearance or violates another bail condition unintentionally, it may not be automatically considered bail jumping, depending on the circumstances surrounding the incident. 

In New York, there is a grace period of 30 days allowing the defendant to appear in court after missing the original court date. If the defendant still intentionally refuses to appear in court after the grace period, they may be charged with bail jumping. 

Consequences for bail jumping can be severe and may include: 

  • Increased bail amount or forfeiture of the original bail
  • A warrant issued for the defendant’s arrest
  • Additional criminal charges for bail jumping, which can result in increased fines, a longer probation sentence, or additional incarceration time 
  • Loss of eligibility for bail in the future, meaning a defendant may have to remain in custody until their case is resolved

It is important for defendants to understand the consequences of bail jumping to be able to avoid additional consequences and the revocation of bail. Bail jumping can also be seen as an indication of guilt and may be detrimental to the proceedings of the original charges filed against the defendant.

Differences Between Bail Jumping and Failing to Appear

Although bail jumping and failing to appear are often used interchangeably, there can be significant differences depending on the circumstances. As mentioned, the key differentiator between these two terms is the concept of intent.

Failing to appear typically refers to a situation in which a defendant unintentionally misses a court appearance or requirement, such as forgetting about their scheduled court date, being late due to circumstances beyond their control, or dealing with a medical emergency. In such cases, a defendant may not receive additional criminal charges related to bail jumping, although they may still face consequences like a warrant for their arrest, an increased bail amount, or having their bail revoked altogether.

On the other hand, bail jumping is specifically characterized by the defendant’s intentional failure to appear or comply with their bail conditions, demonstrating a willful disregard for the court’s authority. In cases of bail jumping, the defendant is likely to face the full range of consequences, including additional criminal charges and penalties.

In summary, bail jumping is a serious offense that involves intentionally violating the terms of bail, most commonly by failing to appear in court. The consequences can be severe and create additional legal challenges for the defendant. Understanding the differences between merely failing to appear and bail jumping is crucial for defendants and their legal representatives to ensure they are properly handling their case and following the law.

New York State Laws on Bail Jumping

Bail jumping, also known as failure to appear (FTA), is a criminal offense in New York State. When a defendant is released on bail or their own recognizance and fails to appear in court as required, they may be charged with bail jumping. This offense can be classified into three different degrees depending on the severity of the charge the defendant was released on. 

Classification of Bail Jumping Offenses

In the state of New York, there are three levels of bail jumping offenses. Each of these levels is determined by the severity of the underlying charge the individual was facing before they failed to appear in court.

Bail Jumping in the Third Degree

The least severe of the three levels, bail jumping in the third degree, occurs when a defendant fails to appear in court while facing a misdemeanor charge. Examples of misdemeanor charges include petit larceny or driving while intoxicated. Third-degree bail jumping is a class A misdemeanor.

Bail Jumping in the Second Degree

Bail jumping in the second degree occurs when a defendant fails to appear in court on a felony charge that is not a class A felony. Examples of felony charges that could lead to a second-degree bail jumping charge include second-degree assault or third-degree burglary. Bail jumping in the second degree is a class E felony.

Bail Jumping in the First Degree

Bail jumping in the first degree is the most severe of the offenses. It occurs when a defendant fails to appear in court while facing a class A felony charge. Examples of class A felonies include first-degree murder or first-degree kidnapping. A first-degree bail jumping charge is itself a class D felony.

Bail Jumping Offense Level Details
Third Degree Occurs when a defendant fails to appear in court while facing a misdemeanor charge, such as petit larceny or driving while intoxicated. It is a class A misdemeanor.
Second Degree Occurs when a defendant fails to appear in court on a felony charge that is not a class A felony, such as second-degree assault or third-degree burglary. It is a class E felony.
First Degree Occurs when a defendant fails to appear in court while facing a class A felony charge, such as first-degree murder or first-degree kidnapping. It is a class D felony.

Possible Defenses for Bail Jumping Charges

There are various defenses a defendant can use to fight bail jumping charges in New York State. Some common defenses include:

  • Mistake or lack of intent: A defendant might be able to avoid a bail jumping charge if they can prove they unintentionally missed their court date due to an honest mistake or extraordinary circumstances. For instance, if they were unaware of the court date or there was an emergency that truly prevented them from attending, they may have a valid defense.
  • Lack of notice: If a defendant can prove they were never properly informed of the court date, they may have a defense against the charge.
  • Voluntary return: If a defendant voluntarily returns to court within 30 days of the missed appearance, they may not be charged with bail jumping. Voluntary return is an affirmative defense to a bail jumping charge under NYPL Section 215.59.
  • Procedural errors: If law enforcement or the court made a procedural error leading to the missed court date, a defendant may use this as a defense. For instance, if the police arrested the defendant without a warrant or the court mishandled the defendant’s case, the defendant’s attorney might be able to argue that the bail jumping charge should be dismissed.

It’s important to note that the success of these defenses will depend on the specific facts of the case, and they may not be applicable in all situations. As a result, it’s crucial to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss the best strategy for fighting a bail jumping charge in New York State.

Consequences of Bail Jumping in New York

The consequences for bail jumping in New York can be severe, including criminal penalties, an impact on the current criminal case, and collateral consequences.

Criminal Penalties

Bail jumping in New York is treated as a criminal offense, with penalties varying depending on the severity of the original charges. The penalties that may be imposed include imprisonment, fines, and probation.

  • Imprisonment: Bail jumping may result in a jail or prison sentence. For a misdemeanor charge, the maximum sentence for bail jumping is one year in jail. For a felony charge, the maximum sentences range from four to seven years in prison, depending on the severity of the original felony charge.
  • Fines: Defendants convicted of bail jumping may also be required to pay fines. The amount of these fines will vary depending on the severity of the original charges and other factors related to the case, but fines could range from several hundred to several thousand dollars.
  • Probation: In some cases, a judge may suspend a sentence of imprisonment and instead place the defendant on probation for the bail jumping offense. During probation, the defendant will be required to follow a strict set of rules and conditions, including regularly reporting to a probation officer, participating in programs or classes as required, and not committing any new offenses.

Impact on Current Criminal Case

In addition to the criminal penalties that may apply to the bail jumping offense itself, the act of failing to appear in court can have significant consequences on the defendant’s current criminal case. These consequences may include increased bail amounts, revocation of bail, and being considered as an aggravating factor in sentencing.

  • Increased Bail Amount: When a defendant is accused of bail jumping, a judge may choose to increase the amount of their bail, making it even more difficult for them to be released from custody while their case is pending.
  • Revocation of Bail: In some instances, the judge may decide to revoke the defendant’s bail altogether, meaning they will be held in jail without the possibility of release until their case is resolved.
  • Aggravating Factor in Sentencing: Bail jumping can be considered an aggravating factor when determining the appropriate sentence for the defendant’s original charges. This means that the fact that the defendant failed to appear in court as required may result in a harsher sentence for their original criminal charges.

Collateral Consequences

There may be collateral consequences related to bail jumping, which can affect a defendant’s life even after their criminal case has been resolved. These consequences may include employment and housing difficulties, damage to personal relationships, and the loss of public benefits.

  • Employment and Housing Difficulties: A criminal conviction for bail jumping can make it difficult for a defendant to find and maintain employment and housing, as potential employers and landlords may be deterred by the individual’s criminal record.
  • Damage to Personal Relationships: Bail jumping can strain personal relationships between defendants, their friends, and family members. Loved ones may feel betrayed by the defendant’s actions and may be less likely to support the individual moving forward.
  • Loss of Public Benefits: A criminal conviction for bail jumping may lead to the denial or loss of some public benefits, such as government assistance programs or professional licenses.

Bail jumping in New York can result in severe consequences for defendants, including criminal penalties, an impact on their current criminal case, and collateral consequences that may continue to affect their lives after their case is resolved. For this reason, it is crucial for individuals facing the possibility of bail jumping to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to understand the potential consequences and explore their options for resolving the situation.

Preventing Bail Jumping

Bail jumping is a serious offense that occurs when a person who has been released on bail fails to appear in court as required. This can lead to severe legal consequences such as additional criminal charges, increased bail amounts, and a longer sentence if found guilty. To prevent bail jumping, it is essential to understand and comply with bail conditions and court orders, communicate effectively with legal counsel, use court notification systems, and know when and how to seek modifications to bail conditions.

Understanding Bail Conditions and Court Orders

To prevent bail jumping, individuals must first understand the specific terms and conditions of their bail release. These can vary depending on the circumstances of the case, the jurisdiction, and the judge’s discretion. Common bail conditions may include restrictions on travel, requirements to surrender one’s passport, obeying curfew hours, abstaining from drug or alcohol use, and reporting to a probation officer.

It is vital that individuals take the time to read and understand all documents provided to them by the court, including the pretrial release order or any other court orders. If there are any questions or confusion about these conditions, it is crucial to ask legal counsel for clarification.

Proper communication with one’s attorney is an essential factor in preventing bail jumping. The attorney can assist in understanding the bail conditions, informing the defendant about upcoming court dates, advising on any restrictions or requirements, and representing their interests in seeking bail modifications if necessary.

Defendants should maintain open and frequent communication with their legal counsel throughout the entire criminal justice process. This includes staying in contact with their attorney regarding any changes in their circumstances, as well as informing them of any potential difficulties in complying with bail conditions, such as issues with transportation, housing, or employment. Additionally, defendants should always consult with their attorney before making any decisions with legal implications that may affect their case.

Seeking Modifications to Bail Conditions

If an individual believes that their bail conditions are too restrictive or problematic, they may request a modification. This can be done by filing a motion to modify bail conditions with the court, which should include the rationale for the request and any supporting documentation.

To increase the likelihood of the court granting the modification, individuals should first consult with their attorney, who can advise on the best way to present the motion and gather necessary supporting evidence. Examples of reasons for seeking a bail modification may include changes in personal circumstances, such as finding employment or securing stable housing, or a decline in the person’s flight risk due to the passage of time or new evidence in the case.

In conclusion, preventing bail jumping is crucial for both the defendant’s well-being and the interests of the criminal justice system. By understanding and adhering to bail conditions, maintaining open communication with legal counsel, utilizing court notification systems, and seeking modifications as necessary, individuals can greatly reduce the risk of bail jumping and its consequences.

Resources for Individuals Accused of Bail Jumping

Being accused of bail jumping can be an incredibly stressful and overwhelming experience. Luckily, there are a variety of resources available for individuals facing this accusation. 

Pretrial Services Programs

Pretrial services programs are designed to help individuals navigate the criminal justice system while they await trial. These programs offer a variety of services, including case management, court reminder calls, and supervised release options, that can help individuals accused of bail jumping adhere to the conditions of their bail and avoid further legal trouble. Some pretrial services programs in New York include the New York City Criminal Justice Agency and the Center for Community Alternatives.

Community and Social Support Groups

Individuals accused of bail jumping can also benefit from the support provided by community organizations and social networks. These groups offer emotional, social, and sometimes financial support to individuals facing legal challenges, helping to reduce anxiety and stress.

Ultimately, understanding the resources available and seeking help from a variety of sources can significantly improve the outcome of a bail jumping case, as well as help individuals maintain their emotional, mental, and physical well-being during this challenging time.

Hiring a Skilled New York Bail Jumping Defense Attorney

Individuals accused of bail jumping may choose to hire a private criminal defense attorney to represent them in court. Private attorneys often have more resources and time to devote to their clients’ cases than public defenders do, which can translate to better outcomes in some situations. 

In the event that your case proceeds to trial, the presence of an attorney becomes absolutely indispensable. They assume the crucial role of courtroom representation, fearlessly challenging evidence and passionately presenting persuasive arguments to defend you against the bail jumping charges.

An attorney can also provide additional help in terms of alleviating the impacts of a conviction and can help you understand and avoid the potential repercussions. An attorney can also diligently explore alternative sentencing options, skillfully present mitigating factors, and relentlessly advocate for solutions that will minimize the overall impact of the charges on your life.

Throughout the entire legal journey, an attorney stands firmly by your side, providing you with unwavering support and indispensable guidance. They can attentively address your concerns, comprehensively explain the intricacies of your options, and ensure that you are consistently informed and empowered, placing you in a position of strength throughout your case.

The significance of hiring a New York bail jumping attorney cannot be overstated. They possess the knowledge, experience, and commitment necessary to protect your rights, construct a formidable defense, and expertly navigate the complexities of the legal system. Their presence, representation, and unwavering support hold the potential to significantly shape the outcome of your case.

Contact Lebedin Kofman LLP Today for a Consultation

Our experienced NYC bail jumping attorneys can provide quality legal representation and counsel in your case. Our team has worked diligently to assist New York residents in every step of their cases. At Lebedin Kofman LLP, our priority is to help our clients navigate the legal system, help them understand their rights under the law, and help them make informed decisions while building a robust defense strategy against their charges. 

Don’t face your charges alone. To learn more information, contact Lebedin Kofman LLP today to schedule a free consultation at (646) 663-4430.

Criminal Defense

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