People v. Amwest Surety Ins Co

In People v. Amwest Surety Ins. Co. (2001) 87 Cal.App.4th 69, the appellate court found that the trial court properly entered summary judgment on a bail bond forfeiture when the defendant failed to appear in court, because the defendant's arrest and return to custody in a second criminal case had no effect on the contractual bail bond obligation for him to appear in the first case. Both cases were in the same California court, the Riverside County Superior Court. The Court of Appeal emphasized that it was the obligation of the sureties on a bail bond to produce the principal at the time and place specified in the bond, and that upon a defendant's failure to appear the surety became the absolute debtor of the state for the amount of the bond. (Id. at p. 71.) In People v. Amwest Surety Ins. Co. (2004) 125 Cal.App.4th 547, the Court found the trial court's entry of summary judgment on the bond void, not merely voidable. In Amwest, the trial court failed to declare a bail bond forfeited on the record in open court, as mandated by section 1305, subdivision (a). Consequently, "no forfeiture occurred, the bond was exonerated, and the court no longer had jurisdiction to declare a forfeiture." (Amwest, at p. 553.) Because the court "thereafter had nothing upon which to act" (ibid.), its later entry of summary judgment on the bond was void and subject to collateral attack at any time. (Id. at p. 549.)