Have you ever wondered what happens when someone posts bail, and then skips the court date? While not only exposing themselves to re-arrest, the accused also surrender their bail to the court by default. The relinquishment of bail to the court system is commonly known as “forfeiture.”
What happens to forfeited bail? Laws vary from state to state, but in North Carolina, the forfeited bail is repurposed to fund the public school system. This public gain comes at the expense of bail bondsmen, who must pay the entire bail amount when the accused fail to appear in court.
In 2014, the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) obtained $3,572,599 in revenue from fines and forfeitures. To put that into perspective, an average teacher in WCPSS is paid a salary of $49,800 per year; fines and forfeitures from 2014 could thus cover the salaries of roughly seventy-one teachers! Three and a half million dollars is a proverbial drop in the bucket compared with the hundreds of millions of dollars required to run such a large school system, but even the lack of a million dollars can make a difference in day-to-day operations in the schools.
When bondsmen don’t honor their commitments, the community suffers. Just last year, several individuals were accused and convicted of costing Wake County schools over one million dollars in revenue from forfeited bonds. By altering court records, they documented pay transfers that never took place, allowing them to keep the money for themselves. It took time and money for the school systems to pursue legal action that would restore the missing money and any interest it might have accrued over time.
Fortunately, most bondsmen present the bail required of them when the situation arises. So, out of something bad – skipped court dates and criminals on the run – comes something good: additional funding for our children’s education.