Bail Forfeiture In California
Certain fixed legal principles guide us in the construction of bail statutes. the law traditionally disfavors forfeitures and this disfavor extends to forfeiture of bail.
Thus, sections 1305 and 1306 must be strictly construed in favor of the surety to avoid the harsh results of a forfeiture.
Where . . . statute[s] such as sections 1305 [and 1306] require a court to exercise its jurisdiction in a particular manner, to follow a particular procedure, or to perform subject to certain limitations, an act beyond those limits is in excess of its jurisdiction." ( People v. Surety Ins. Co. (1985) 165 Cal. App. 3d 22, 26 [211 Cal. Rptr. 204].)
The Penal Code requires a court to declare the undertaking of bail forfeited if a defendant fails to appear ( 1305, subd. (a)). If the undertaking is over a specified amount, the clerk must mail notice of the forfeiture to the surety ( 1305, subd. (b)).
Within 180 days of the declaration of forfeiture or the mailing of notice, if notice is required, a surety may move to vacate the forfeiture ( 1305, subd. (c)(4)). If notice of forfeiture is required to be mailed, the 180-day period is extended five days ( 1305, subd. (b)).
If the period of time specified elapses without the forfeiture having been set aside, the court has 90 days after the date when summary judgment could first be entered within which to enter that judgment against the bond agent; otherwise, the right to do so expires and the bail is exonerated. ( 1306.)
Penal Code section 1305 provides for the forfeiture of the undertaking of bail and for exoneration or reinstatement of the bond. As in effect at the time of the events relevant to this appeal, former section 1305 stated:
"(a) a court shall declare forfeited the undertaking of bail . . . if, without sufficient excuse, a defendant fails to appear . . . . (b) If the amount of the bond . . . exceeds $ 400, the clerk of the court shall, within 30 days of the forfeiture, mail notice of the forfeiture to the surety . . . . If the notice of forfeiture is required to be mailed pursuant to this section, the 180-day period provided for in this section shall be extended by a period of five days to allow for the mailing." (Stats. 1996, ch. 94, 1.)
Section 1305 further provides that if the defendant appears in court or is surrendered to custody by the bail or arrested in the underlying case "within 180 days of the date of forfeiture or within 180 days of the date of mailing of the notice if the notice is required under subdivision (b), the court shall . . . direct the order of forfeiture to be vacated and the bond exonerated." ( 1305, subd. (c)(1).)
The surety insurer, the bail agent, the surety, or the depositor of money or property, may move to vacate the forfeiture. ( 1305, former subd. (c)(4), now subd. (i).)
Such a "motion filed in a timely manner within the 180-day period may be heard within 30 days of the expiration of the 180-day period," and the court may extend this period upon a showing of good cause. (Ibid.)
In lieu of exonerating the bond, the court may order the bail reinstated and the defendant released on the same bond if the bail is given prior notice of the reinstatement and the bail has not surrendered the defendant. (Ibid.)
"If, within 180 days of the [notice] of forfeiture or . . . of the date of mailing of the notice if notice is required under subdivision (b)," it is shown that the defendant is deceased or permanently unable to appear, the forfeiture may be vacated and the bail exonerated. ( 1305, subd. (d).)
If the defendant becomes temporarily disabled, the court may order "the 180-day period" tolled. ( 1305, subd. (e).)