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7th District orders hearing in dispute over bond forfeiture

Legal News Reporter

Published: May 12, 2022

A Columbiana County trial court abused its discretion in denying a bail bonding company’s motion for remission of a $20,000 bond it paid for a defendant, the 7th District Court of Appeals ruled recently.
Appellant AABBB, All American Big Bob’s Bail Bonding, Inc. posted defendant Anthony Jackson’s cash/surety bond on Dec. 14, 2015. Jackson was charged with having a weapon while under disability and receiving stolen property.
On June 27, 2017, Jackson pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property. He was scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 17, 2017, but failed to appear. The trial court revoked Jackson’s bond and issued a warrant for his arrest. The trial court stated in its judgment entry that AABBB had 28 days to produce Jackson and stayed the forfeiture for that time.
On Aug. 16, 2018, AABBB requested a 45-day extension to apprehend Jackson. The trial court gave the bail bonding company 45 days to apprehend Jackson and produce him to the court.
On Dec. 20, 2018, the trial court lifted the previously imposed stay on the forfeit, noting AABBB had failed to produce Jackson, and ordered the company to forfeiture the surety bond to the clerk of courts by Jan. 29, 2019.
On Jan. 16, 2019, AABBB filed a motion to vacate the Nov. 17, 2017 bond forfeiture, arguing Jackson was arrested on the bench warrant on Jan. 11, 2019, and was currently in the Columbiana County Jail. AABBB alleged it made significant efforts to locate and detain Jackson following the notification of forfeiture. Because Jackson had now been arrested and detained by U.S. Marshalls, the company requested the court vacate the forfeiture order.
The state opposed that request. The trial court denied the motion, stating AABBB did not point to any factors to support vacating the bond forfeiture.
AABBB forfeited the bond and paid the clerk of courts the $20,000 on Aug. 2, 2019.
On May 14, 2020, it filed the motion for remission, arguing that Jackson was available to the trial court on or before Jan. 14, 2019, which was before the forfeiture date of Jan. 29, 2019. The trial court denied appellant’s motion for remission on April 5, 2021.
On appeal, the company alleged the trial court did not follow the proper procedure for a bond forfeiture against a surety because it never set a hearing date. And without a hearing, it was never given an opportunity to show cause.
AABBB also alleged it provided evidence by way of affidavit that it should have been able to present at a hearing regarding the significant amount of digital research and surveillance it conducted in an attempt to locate Jackson. In addition, the company noted Jackson was apprehended and available to the court prior to the time the bond was to be forfeited. AABBB also argued it was sharing information with the U.S. Marshalls who ultimately apprehended Jackson.
In his 3-0 decision, appellate Judge Gene Donofrio said the trial court violated R.C. 2937.36(C) by proceeding to judgment without a hearing and by overruling its motion for remission.
State v. American Bail Bond Agency, (129 Ohio App.3d 708, 712, 719 N.E.2d 13, 10th Dist.1998) laid out several facts to consider when a party seeks remission of a forfeited bail bond:
1. The circumstances surrounding the subsequent appearance by the defendant, including the timing, and whether her reappearance was voluntary;
2. The reasons for defendant's failure to appear * * *;
3. The inconvenience, expense, delay and any other prejudice to the prosecution;
4. Whether the [sureties were] instrumental in securing the appearance of the defendant;
5. Any mitigating circumstances; and
6. Whether justice requires that the entire amount of the bail remain forfeited.”
“In this case, the trial court did not refer to or mention the above factors, or any other factors, in denying appellant’s motion for remission,” Judge Donofrio said.
The trial court’s judgment was reversed. On remand, the trial court must hold a hearing where AABBB has the opportunity to show cause as to why the court should not order forfeiture of the bond.
Seventh District judges Cheryl L. Waite and Carol Ann Robb concurred. The case is State v. Jackson, 2022-Ohio-1306.