Bail Jumping

Bail jumping is the short name for a Texas criminal offense called “bail jumping and failure to appear.” If you missed a court date, especially if the case is a felony, you may be charged with bail jumping. First some clarification, if you miss a court date a warrant will be issued and your bond may be forfeited. That is a separate issue from bail jumping. Bail jumping ia completely new criminal case that can be filed against you along with the warrant for the original case you were going to court for.

What’s the law on bail jumping in Texas?

The actual criminal offense of bail jumping and failure to appear, according to the Texas Penal Code § 38.10(a), is defined as: “A person lawfully released from custody, with or without bail, on condition that he subsequently appear commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly fails to appear in accordance with the terms of his release.” The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure sets the statute of limitations for bail jumping at three years. Generally speaking, the statute of limitations begins to run at the time an offense is committed or sometimes at the time an offense is discovered.

A recent Dallas case highlights some of the common issues in Texas bail jumping cases.

Texas v. Ojiaku

In 2003, defendant Chinedu Godwin Ojiaku was indicted for indecency with a child. He was admitted to bail, but failed to appear for his hearing in September 2003. The law caught up with Ojiaku on November 2013. He was arrested and in addition to his first offense he was indicted for bail jumping and failure to appear.

Attorneys for the State of Texas argued that Ojiaku was properly indicted for the crime of bail jumping, even though it was 10 years after Ojiaku had failed to appear in court. The State claimed that bail jumping is a continuous offense because although it is set in motion by the single offense of failing to appear for court, it is a continuous neglect of a legal duty. If it were true that bail jumping was a continuous offense, it would mean that the statute of limitations did not start to run on September 2003, but only started to run after Ojiaku was arrested on November 2013.

Ojiaku’s argument was that the crime of bail jumping was completed when all elements of the offense had occurred, that is, when Ojiaka missed his court date. Furthermore, Ojiaku relied on the lack of explicit language in the Texas Penal Code defining bail jumping as a continuing offense.

The Dallas Court of Appeals ruled that the offense of bail jumping is complete when the defendant fails to appear in accordance with the terms of his release, bail jumping is not a continuous offense, and the statute of limitations is three years from the date a Defendant misses court.

Contact Guest and Gray Law Firm for Help with Your Bail Jumping Case

A defendant cannot be indicted for the crime of failure to appear and bail jumping in Texas when he or she is apprehended more than three years after a missed court date. Do you have questions about your criminal law case or think you might be wanted for bail jumping? Contact the experienced Guest and Gray Law Firm criminal law attorney team for your free, confidential consultation. We are the largest and best reviewed law firm in Kaufman County, with offices conveniently located in Forney, Kaufman, and Rockwall.

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