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Bail Bond Company’s Liability Reduced After Defendant Misses Hearing Due To Incarceration In Another Jurisdiction

In State v. Mottolese, 2015 VT 81 (June 12th, 2015), the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that a bail bond company did not forfeit its bond when the defendant failed to appear in Vermont court because he was incarcerated in New York.

Issue: The defendant, arraigned for various felonies, was released from jail via a bail bond from Allstate. The defendant was allowed to return to his home state of New York, where he was promptly incarcerated on separate charges. His New York incarceration caused the defendant to miss his Vermont court hearing, and the State of Vermont filed a motion to forfeit bail. Allstate attempted to obtain a surety warrant to transport the defendant from New York to Vermont after his release. Allstate’s request was denied. The trial court ordered full forfeiture, despite Allstate’s motion for a reduction in forfeiture in consideration of the circumstances. The issue before the Court was whether a surety forfeits the bond when a defendant becomes incarcerated in another jurisdiction and cannot attend court.

Holding: The Court discussed the similarities between F.R.C.P. 46(f) and 13 V.S.A. § 7560a(d), and noted that other jurisdictions allow a reduction in forfeiture on factually similar circumstances. The Court determined that forfeiture should be determined based on the totality of the circumstances. The good faith efforts made by Allstate to retrieve the defendant and bear the costs for his transportation were received favorably. The Court reversed, and instructed the trial court to remit the bond back to Allstate less the costs of the delayed trial.

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