People v. Far West Ins. Co

In People v. Far West Ins. Co. (2001) 93 Cal.App.4th 791, the defendant was located by the surety's agent in Georgia and taken into custody by Georgia authorities, who contacted the police department in Oakland where he was wanted for failing to appear at a court hearing in connection with a pending armed robbery charge. The Oakland Police Department, without notifying the district attorney's office, instructed the Georgia sheriff to "release the hold" on the defendant. (Id. at p. 793.) The respondent county contended that under the facts presented, "the prosecuting agency" had made no election against extradition as required for exoneration of the bond under section 1305, subdivisions (f) and (g). The court, relying on the principle that the statutes governing bail "'must be strictly construed in favor of the surety to avoid the harsh results of a forfeiture'" and given a "'reasonable, commonsense construction in line with their apparent purpose, in order to advance wise legislative policy and avoid absurdity,'" concluded that the failure to alert the district attorney's office was not fatal to the surety's motion for relief from forfeiture. (Far West, supra, 93 Cal.App.4th at p. 795.) The court did not attempt "to formulate a broad legal rule," but held that "under the circumstances presented--a California fugitive admitted to bail, apprehended and held in custody in another state, is released as a result of errors committed solely by officials of the demanding county government and the surety has done all that is required of it under the terms of the bond--bail is exonerated." (Id. at p. 798.) To hold otherwise, "would discourage sureties from undertaking to underwrite bail bonds, contrary to the evident policy of the Legislature as expressed in the statutory scheme." (Ibid.) In Far West, the defendant's arrest was the result of the efforts of the surety