When you are charged with a crime in Massachusetts and taken into custody, you may have the opportunity to be released after paying bail. But as a condition of your release, you are agreeing to appear at a future court date where you will answer for the charges.
If you fail to make your court appearance as ordered, you may be considered to have jumped bail and face serious criminal penalties.
What Is Bail Jumping?
- Defendant was released on bail.
- Defendant was aware that he was to appear in court on a particular date and time as a condition of the release.
- Defendant did not make his court appearance.
For example, suppose that a defendant is charged with a misdemeanor assault charge and is able to pay bail to be released from jail. As a condition of his release, a judge orders that the defendant appear at court on July 1. The defendant is aware of this requirement, but fails to show up for his court hearing nevertheless. The defendant may now be charged with bail jumping in addition to his original misdemeanor assault charge.
What If There Is A Good Excuse for Missing the Court Date?
In some circumstances, the defendant may have a valid excuse for missing the court date.
In these cases, the prosecutor will have the additional burden of proving that the defendant jumped bail “without sufficient cause” excusing his absence. The prosecutor will have to show that the absence was deliberate or willful. In other words, the prosecutor will have to show that the defendant intended to miss the court date.
So if the defendant can show that he had every intention to make the court date, but something happened that prevented him from doing so, he may be exonerated of the crime. Good excuses for missing a court date can include:
- Getting into a car accident while on your way to court
- Suffering a severe illness or hospitalization
- Attending to an emergency of a loved one
- Other extenuating circumstances
Whether an excuse is valid will depend upon the specific facts of the defendant’s case.
What Are the Penalties for Bail Jumping?
The penalties for bail jumping in Massachusetts depend upon the severity of the original crime that you were charged with.
- Misdemeanor. If the original crime was a misdemeanor, you face up to one year in a house of corrections and a $10,000 fine for jumping bail.
- Felony. If the original crime was a felony, you face up to five years in prison and a $50,0000 fine.
Keep in mind these penalties are in addition to whatever penalties you would have faced for the original crime.
Contact a Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with jumping bail, you will want to talk to a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney. You could face very serious penalties, and you should be aware of your available defenses.