New York Bail Jumping Laws: A Detailed Look
Missing a court date can lead to serious consequences in New York. If you fail to appear after being released on bail, you could face criminal charges for bail jumping. This article provides a comprehensive overview of New York bail jumping laws, penalties, and defenses.
What is Bail Jumping?
Bail jumping refers to failing to appear in court after being released on bail. New York law considers it bail jumping if you miss your scheduled court date or fail to appear within 30 days of that date.
Bail jumping charges apply whether you were released on your own recognizance, cash bail, bond, or other conditions. The charges can apply to both felony and misdemeanor cases.
Degrees of Bail Jumping
New York divides bail jumping into three degrees depending on the severity of the original charges:
- Third Degree – Applies when the original charges were a misdemeanor or violation. This is a Class A misdemeanor.
- Second Degree – Applies when the original charges were a felony. This is a Class E felony.
- First Degree – Applies when the original charges were a Class A or Class B felony. This is a Class D felony.
Penalties for Bail Jumping
- Third Degree – Up to 1 year in jail, probation, conditional discharge, unconditional discharge, or time served.
- Second Degree – 1 to 4 years in prison, 1 year or less in jail, split sentence (up to 6 months jail and probation), probation, conditional discharge, or unconditional discharge.
- First Degree – Up to 7 years in prison, 1 year or less in jail, split sentence, or probation.
Elements of a Bail Jumping Charge
For a bail jumping charge, the prosecution must prove:
- You were released on bail or your own recognizance for a criminal action or proceeding
- Your release came with the condition that you appear in court on a specific date
- You failed to appear on that date or within 30 days
- You acted knowingly and intentionally in not appearing
The prosecution will try to prove you had proper notice of the court date through documentation like a signed court order or subpoena.
Some potential defenses to bail jumping charges include:
- Lack of notice – You can argue you never received proper notice of the court date.
- Unavoidable circumstances – Emergencies or unforeseeable events prevented your appearance.
- No intent – You did not knowingly or intentionally miss the court date.
- Surrendered within 30 days – You failed to appear but surrendered within 30 days.
- No underlying charges – The original case was dismissed so bail jumping no longer applies.
- Violation of due process – Your constitutional rights were violated in the bail jumping charges.
What to Do If You Miss Court
If you miss a court date, take these steps as soon as possible:
- Contact your attorney immediately to discuss your options. Do not wait as timeliness is critical.
- Check online court records to see if a warrant has been issued for your arrest.
- If no new court date is scheduled, contact the court clerk to arrange to voluntarily surrender.
- Make every effort to appear within 30 days of the missed court date to avoid bail jumping charges.
- Be prepared to explain the circumstances that caused you to miss court and provide supporting documentation.
- An experienced criminal defense attorney can argue against bail jumping charges and work to get them dismissed.
Consecutive vs. Concurrent Sentences
There are no laws requiring bail jumping sentences to run consecutive (back-to-back) with sentences on the original charges. However, prosecutors often request consecutive sentences.
Judges have discretion in deciding whether multiple sentences will be consecutive or concurrent (served simultaneously). Your attorney can argue for concurrent sentences as part of plea negotiations.
Changes to Bail Laws in New York
Important changes to New York bail laws took effect in 2020. The laws now allow more defendants to be released without cash bail. Defendants are often released on their own recognizance with supervision instead.
However, bail jumping charges still apply to those released under the new laws. Failing to appear can result in new criminal charges or resentencing on the original charges.
Critics argue the changes have increased missed court appearances. But data shows appearance rates remain high overall. The long-term effects continue to be debated.
Getting Legal Help for Bail Jumping
Being charged with bail jumping is serious. The penalties can be severe, and a criminal record can negatively impact your life. Therefore, working with an experienced criminal defense attorney is highly recommended.
Some tips for finding a lawyer:
- Look for an attorney familiar with New York bail laws and bail jumping specifically.
- Consider someone with experience arguing bail jumping defenses like lack of notice.
- Find a lawyer you trust who will fight aggressively to get charges dismissed or reduced.
- Be sure they have represented clients in bail jumping cases similar to yours.
- Ask about their negotiation tactics and trial experience.
With the right legal help, you may be able to avoid a criminal conviction for bail jumping. But every case is different, so consult with an attorney about your options.
Frequently Asked Questions
What if I have an emergency that prevents me from appearing?
While emergencies can potentially be used as a defense, you should contact your attorney and the court immediately. Do not wait until your court date. Promptly provide evidence of the emergency such as doctor’s notes.
Will a warrant be issued if I miss court?
Most likely yes. Check online court records, and if no new court date is scheduled, a warrant was probably issued. Contact your attorney right away to arrange to surrender voluntarily.
Can I get in trouble for leaving the state after being released on bail?
Yes, your bail conditions likely require you to remain in the jurisdiction. Leaving the state without permission could result in bail revocation and new charges. Always get approval from the court before leaving.
How soon after missing court will I be charged with bail jumping?
Prosecutors can file charges as soon as you fail to appear within 30 days. In practice, charges are often filed soon after the missed court date.
What if I show up more than 30 days later?
Appearing after 30 days prevents additional bail jumping charges. But you can still be sanctioned for violating bail conditions. Potential penalties include higher bail, bond revocation, and resentencing on the original charges.
Can bail jumping charges be dropped as part of a plea deal?
Yes, it may be possible to get bail jumping charges dismissed through plea negotiations. Your attorney may be able to bargain them away in exchange for a guilty plea on the original charges.
Being released on bail comes with the serious obligation to appear in court when required. If you miss a court date, promptly consult with your criminal defense attorney and take steps to surrender voluntarily. With an experienced lawyer, you may be able to avoid bail jumping charges or get them dismissed. But every case has different circumstances, so seek qualified legal counsel right away.