903.26 Forfeiture of the bond; when and how directed; discharge; how and when made; effect of payment.—

(1) A bail bond shall not be forfeited unless:

(a) The information, indictment, or affidavit was filed within 6 months from the date of arrest, and

(b) The clerk of court gave the surety at least 72 hours’ notice, exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, before the time of the required appearance of the defendant. Notice shall not be necessary if the time for appearance is within 72 hours from the time of arrest, or if the time is stated on the bond. Such notice may be mailed or electronically transmitted.

(2)(a) If there is a breach of the bond, the court shall declare the bond and any bonds or money deposited as bail forfeited. The clerk of the court shall mail or electronically transmit a notice to the surety agent and surety company within 5 days after the forfeiture. A certificate signed by the clerk of the court or the clerk’s designee, certifying that the notice required herein was mailed or electronically transmitted on a specified date and accompanied by a copy of the required notice, shall constitute sufficient proof that such mailing or electronic transmission was properly accomplished as indicated therein. If such mailing or electronic transmission was properly accomplished as evidenced by such certificate, the failure of the surety agent, of a company, or of a defendant to receive such notice shall not constitute a defense to such forfeiture and shall not be grounds for discharge, remission, reduction, set aside, or continuance of such forfeiture. The forfeiture shall be paid within 60 days of the date the notice was mailed or electronically transmitted.

(b) Failure of the defendant to appear at the time, date, and place of required appearance shall result in forfeiture of the bond. Such forfeiture shall be automatically entered by the clerk upon such failure to appear, and the clerk shall follow the procedures outlined in paragraph (a). However, the court may determine, in its discretion, in the interest of justice, that an appearance by the defendant on the same day as required does not warrant forfeiture of the bond; and the court may direct the clerk to set aside any such forfeiture which may have been entered. Any appearance by the defendant later than the required day constitutes forfeiture of the bond, and the court shall not preclude entry of such forfeiture by the clerk.

(c) If there is a breach of the bond, the clerk shall provide, upon request, a certified copy of the warrant or capias to the bail bond agent or surety company.

(3) Sixty days after the forfeiture notice has been mailed or electronically transmitted:

(a) State and county officials having custody of forfeited money shall deposit the money in the fine and forfeiture fund established pursuant to s. 142.01.

(b) Municipal officials having custody of forfeited money shall deposit the money in a designated municipal fund.

(c) Officials having custody of bonds as authorized by s. 903.16 shall transmit the bonds to the clerk of the circuit court who shall sell them at market value and disburse the proceeds as provided in paragraphs (a) and (b).

(4)(a) When a bond is forfeited, the clerk shall transmit the bond and any affidavits to the clerk of the circuit court in which the bond and affidavits are filed. The clerk of the circuit court shall record the forfeiture in the deed or official records book. If the undertakings and affidavits describe real property in another county, the clerk shall transmit the bond and affidavits to the clerk of the circuit court of the county where the property is located who shall record and return them.

(b) The bond and affidavits shall be a lien on the real property they describe from the time of recording in the county where the property is located for 2 years or until the final determination of an action instituted thereon within a 2-year period. If an action is not instituted within 2 years from the date of recording, the lien shall be discharged. The lien will be discharged 2 years after the recording even if an action was instituted within 2 years unless a lis pendens notice is recorded in the action.

(5) The court shall discharge a forfeiture within 60 days upon:

(a) A determination that it was impossible for the defendant to appear as required due to circumstances beyond the defendant’s control. The potential adverse economic consequences of appearing as required shall not be considered as constituting a ground for such a determination;

(b) A determination that, at the time of the required appearance, the defendant was adjudicated insane and confined in an institution or hospital or was confined in a jail or prison;

(c) Surrender or arrest of the defendant if the delay has not thwarted the proper prosecution of the defendant. If the forfeiture has been before discharge, the court shall direct remission of the forfeiture. The court shall condition a discharge or remission on the payment of costs and the expenses incurred by an official in returning the defendant to the jurisdiction of the court.

(6) The discharge of a forfeiture shall not be ordered for any reason other than as specified herein.

(7) The payment by a surety of a forfeiture under the provisions of this law shall have the same effect on the bond as payment of a judgment.

(8) If the defendant is arrested and returned to the county of jurisdiction of the court prior to judgment, the clerk, upon affirmation by the sheriff or the chief correctional officer, shall, without further order of the court, discharge the forfeiture of the bond. However, if the surety agent fails to pay the costs and expenses incurred in returning the defendant to the county of jurisdiction, the clerk shall not discharge the forfeiture of the bond. If the surety agent and the sheriff fail to agree on the amount of said costs, then the court, after notice to the sheriff and the state attorney, shall determine the amount of the costs.

History.—s. 69, ch. 19554, 1939; CGL 1940 Supp. 8663(69); s. 1, ch. 59-354; s. 2, ch. 61-406; s. 2, ch. 65-492; s. 1, ch. 69-150; s. 32, ch. 70-339; s. 1, ch. 77-388; s. 58, ch. 82-175; s. 173, ch. 83-216; s. 8, ch. 86-151; s. 1484, ch. 97-102; s. 4, ch. 99-303; s. 4, ch. 2000-178; s. 81, ch. 2004-265; s. 55, ch. 2005-236; s. 7, ch. 2013-192.

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