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Bail Jumping And Failure To Appear: The Basics
Being charged with a crime is already a serious matter, but failing to appear in court as required could further compound your legal troubles. If you find yourself in a situation where you might be charged with an offense in Texas, it's essential to understand what the law says about bail jumping and failure to appear. In Texas, these actions are covered under Section 38.10 of the Penal Code of Texas.
What Does The Law Say?
In accordance with Texas Penal Code Section 38.10, if a person is released from state custody (lawfully), either subject to bail or without it, and they are conditioned to appear at a subsequent time, they commit an offense if they knowingly fail to appear as required.
Key Points To Understand
- The individual must have been released from state custody (lawfully).
- The release could have been subject to bail or without it.
- Failing to appear must be intentional or knowing to be considered an offense under this law.
If you're charged, it's not necessarily the end of the road; there are some defenses you might be able to employ.
Parole, Community Supervision, Or An Intermittent Sentence
If the appearance failure was caused by participation in any of these scenarios, that’s a potentially viable defense.
You may also defend against these charges if you can articulate a reasonable excuse for failing to appear. What counts as 'reasonable' can be subjective and might require legal argument.
Penalties And Classifications
Class A Misdemeanor
By default, an offense is a Class A misdemeanor in Texas, unless stated otherwise. A Class A misdemeanor can carry a penalty of up to one year in jail and/or a fine not to exceed $4,000.
Class C Misdemeanor
If the offense for which you were supposed to appear is punishable by a fine only, then failing to appear is a Class C misdemeanor. This usually entails a fine but no jail time.
Felony Of The Third Degree
However, if the criminal charge for which you were required to appear is classified as a felony, then the failure to appear becomes a felony of the third degree. Felonies of the third degree in Texas can be punishable by a prison sentence between 2 to 10 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
Exploring Specific Defenses Under Texas Penal Code § 38.10: Bail Jumping And Failure To Appear
Parole, Community Supervision, Or Intermittent Sentence
The statute explicitly states that it's a potentially viable defense if your required appearance was affected by being on parole or under community supervision, and your failure to appear was related to these circumstances, this can serve as a defense. However, this defense may require proof, such as documents or testimonies, to confirm that your absence was indeed related to parole or community supervision.
Reasonable Excuse For Failure To Appear
Another defense detailed in the statute is that you had a “reasonable excuse” for not appearing in court. What constitutes a “reasonable excuse” can be subjective and often relies on the specific circumstances surrounding your case. This could range from medical emergencies to severe weather conditions that made it unsafe or impossible for you to make it to court. Again, you would likely need to provide evidence to substantiate your claim of having a reasonable excuse.
A Word On The Burden Of Proof
It's important to remember that in criminal cases, the burden of proof often lies with the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the offense. However, when you're using a specific defense, you may be required to present evidence supporting that defense.
Frequently Asked Questions About Texas Penal Code § 38.10: Bail Jumping And Failure To Appear
What Is Bail Jumping And Failure To Appear?
This is an offense that occurs when a person who has been released from state custody (lawfully), either subject to bail or without it, fails to appear in court in accordance with the terms of their release. The failure to appear must be intentional or knowing for it to be considered an offense.
What Are The Penalties For This Offense?
- Class A Misdemeanor: The default classification, punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $4,000.
- Class C Misdemeanor: If the initial offense is punishable only by a fine, the failure to appear becomes a Class C misdemeanor, usually involving a fine but no jail time.
- Felony of the Third Degree: If the initial offense is a felony, then failing to appear becomes a felony of the third degree, punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Are There Any Defenses Against A Charge?
Yes, the statute outlines two specific defenses:
- Parole, Community Supervision, or Intermittent Sentence: If your required appearance was affected by your participation in these oversight activities, you can use this as a defense.
- Reasonable Excuse: If you can articulate a reasonable excuse for your failure to appear, this can also be used as a defense. The definition of “reasonable” is subjective and usually relies on the specifics of your situation.
What Constitutes A “Reasonable Excuse” For Missing A Court Date?
The term “reasonable excuse” is not explicitly defined in the statute, which means its interpretation can be somewhat subjective. Examples might include medical emergencies, severe weather conditions, or other unforeseen circumstances that prevented you from appearing in court.
What Kind Of Evidence Do I Need To Present For A Defense?
If you're claiming a specific defense, you may be required to provide evidence to support it. For instance, medical records could support a “reasonable excuse” defense, while parole or community supervision documents could substantiate that defense.
Why You Should Contact Our Criminal Defense Attorneys Now
Ignoring a court appearance is not just an inconvenience for the court; it's a criminal offense under Texas law. If you're already facing criminal charges, you do not want to add to them by violating Section 38.10 of the Penal Code of Texas. If you jump bail, it can lead to additional fines, imprisonment, and it will likely complicate your existing legal situation.
If you're involved in a situation where you might be charged with bail jumping and failure to appear, it's critical to consult with a criminal defense lawyer who can advise you concerning the complexities of Texas criminal law. Legal defenses may be available to you, but they often require nuanced argument and a thorough understanding of the law.
Make Informed Decisions About Your Bail Jumping Charge With An Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer
Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to the law; what you don’t know can indeed hurt you. That’s why our lawyers take the time to educate you about all your options and what each course of action entails. Gain the advantage in your case by making informed decisions with the guidance of our seasoned criminal defense lawyers. Call Cofer & Connelly, PLLC at (512) 991-0576 or set up a consultation online for help with your criminal case.