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Vermont Supreme Court Holds That Discretion Must Include Consideration of All Relevant Facts in Bail Forfeiture Case

In State v. Anderson, 2016 VT 127 (Dec. 9, 2016), the Supreme Court reversed the superior court’s forfeiture of bail because the court had not resolved the bailor’s factual allegations.

Issue: Eastern, a bail bond agency, posted defendant’s bail. Defendant did not appear at his sentencing hearing and a bail forfeiture hearing was set. The facts are unclear at this point: the docket entries had a notation that notice of the forfeiture hearing was sent to the bailor, but Eastern was not named in the entry and, unlike a prior hearing notice, the file did not contain a copy of any notice. Neither defendant nor the bailor was present at the forfeiture hearing, and the court ordered bail forfeited. Eastern claimed not to have received notice of the forfeiture hearing and the next day moved to vacate the bail forfeiture. The court denied the motion without explanation. Eastern appealed.

Holding: The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, noting that though a decision to forfeit bail is reviewed for abuse of discretion,“[t]o exercise that discretion, the court must consider all the relevant facts.” Bail can be forfeited in whole or in part, and that based on many factors; Eastern’s factual allegations were thus relevant.

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