State v. Kramer

James Lawrence Studt

Case Conclusion Date:November 19, 2009

Practice Area:Appeals

Outcome:Washington Supreme Court bail bond issue victory

Description:In this case, the defendant failed to appear for a court hearing while released on a $20,000.00 bond posted by my client. The defendant was picked up by law enforcement seven days after his missed appearance. The bail bond law at the time indicated that if a defendant was apprehended within sixty days, then the bond should be returned to the bail bond company, less any law enforcement costs. The trial court judge refused to exonerate bail bond and ordered entire $20,000.00 bail bond forfeited due to the seven day absence of the defendant. This was contrary to the state of the law, and we appealed to the Court of Appeals, Division III. The Court of Appeals held that the entire bail bond should not be forfeited, but that the trial court could forfeit part of the bond and return part of the bond. The Court of Appeals created new law that allowed trial courts to forfeit bail bonds if they thought the bail bond company or its employees acted improperly. This was in direct conflict with nearly 100 years of law on the subject, which provided that bail bonds cannot be used to punish a surety. In addition, the Court of Appeals held that my client was not entitled to exoneration for producing the defendant within sixty days because the client did not post a second bond to stay forfeiture within the sixty day time period set forth by statute. We appealed to the Washington Supreme Court. The Washington Supreme Court reversed both the trial court and court of appeals, holding that my client is entitled to vacation of the default forfeiture because the defendant was returned to custody within the 60 days provided by statute and also held that my client is entitled to exoneration of the bond, minus costs incurred by law enforcement in transporting, locating, apprehending, or processing the principal's return to the jurisdiction of the court. Washington Supreme Court also clarified the requirements of bail bond statute with regard to the sixty day stay period for forfeiture of bail bonds. The statute's language made it unclear whether a second bond was required in order to obtain exoneration if the defendant is produced within sixty days from the date the defendant failed to appear. The Washington Supreme Court held that a bail bond company is not required to post a second bond in order to obtain exoneration if the defendant is produced within sixty days. All in all, a total victory for my client, as we obtained everything we were seeking, and also clarified the law regarding bail bonds in a manner favorable to bail bond companies.