What is Bond Forfeiture? - Definition, Warrant & Hearing

Instructor: Kristi Tyler

Kristi is a practicing attorney who focuses on criminal and juvenile law.

In this lesson, learn about bond forfeiture. Specifically, we will explore the two main types of bond, the bond forfeiture process, and what happens in a bond forfeiture hearing.

What is Bond?

Perhaps you have played the board game Monopoly and received a ''Get out of Jail Free'' card. While that card may have been useful as you made your way around the board, it is not very helpful in a real arrest situation. Let's discuss how a person gets out of jail with bond and what happens if that bond is lost, or forfeited.

After an arrest, many may wish they had a Get out of Jail Free card.
Monopoly get out of jail

After a person is arrested, he appears before a judge who sets a bail amount. To be released from jail, the accused must pay the bail amount and make a promise to attend all required court appearances. This written promise and payment is called a bond. Without a bond, the accused would remain in jail until his case is resolved.

In some cases, a person may be released on his ''own recognizance.'' This means that the accused gives his personal promise to return to court. A judge may allow this type of bond if the arrested person is accused of a minor crime and has strong ties to the community. Most bonds are either cash bonds or surety bonds. Let's discuss these two bonds using an example.

The accused has to post bail to get out of jail.
handcuffs and cash

Joe was out late one night and had too many drinks with his friends. He thought he was okay to drive home, but he was soon stopped by a police officer and arrested for the crime of driving while intoxicated. After his arrest, Joe had a hearing with the judge who set Joe's bail at $1,500.

In this example, $1,500 is the amount of money that must be paid for Joe to be released from jail. Let's suppose that Joe has enough money to pay the $1,500 and be released. Once Joe pays the entire $1,500, then Joe will be released upon his promise to return to court. This is a cash bond. If Joe makes all of his required court appearances, he will get all of this money back when his case ends, less a few administrative costs.

Now, let's assume that Joe is a college student who does not have $1,500. Joe calls his father to see if he can help. Joe's father does not have $1,500 either. What can be done for Joe?

Joe's father can obtain a surety bond for Joe by using a bail bond company. A surety bond is a binding contract between the surety (the bail bond company), the accused, and the court. In most instances, the bond company collects 10 percent of the bond amount from the accused as its fee, and the bond company is now responsible for the bond.

In our example, if Joe's father can pay $150, or 10 percent of the $1,500, then the bond company will be liable for the bond, and Joe will be released. The bond company may also require something of value, called collateral, to further secure the bond. The bail bond company is now acting as the surety. Because the bail bond company is liable for the full bond amount, it will help ensure that Joe makes all of his court dates.

Bond Forfeiture

So what happens if Joe does not make all of his court appearances? Let's suppose that some months go by, and Joe receives written notice to appear in court for his unresolved case. He is really busy and sets the notice aside. Several weeks later, he realizes that he missed his court date. What happens now?


Most courts issue a warrant to bring the accused to court to answer for failure to appear. This means that Joe will now have a warrant for his arrest that will remain active until he is caught or surrenders himself to authorities. Joe will now have to answer for driving while intoxicated and for the additional crime of failing to appear.

If a bond company was used, then it will also be notified that its surety bond is subject to bond forfeiture. Bond forfeiture means that the court can collect the bond money because the surety failed to produce Joe in court, as required. A forfeited bond becomes the property of the jurisdiction hearing the case.

The court will set a date to hear testimony on the bond forfeiture. The bond company will use this time before the hearing to locate Joe in hopes of saving the bond money from forfeiture. When Joe can be arrested on the warrant, his bond will likely be revoked. This means that Joe will be held in jail without bond until he resolves his case. The next step is to determine what happens to the bond money.

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