If a criminal defendant in the state of Colorado flees – or merely appears to vanish – while free on bond and waiting for a trial to begin, the legal consequences can be quite severe.

You are about to learn what can happen if you flee or disappear while you are on trial or awaiting trial on a criminal charge in Colorado. You will also learn what you can do to protect yourself if you are accused of violating your bond and failing to appear in court as scheduled, and how a Denver drug crimes attorney can help.

HOW CAN A CRIMINAL DEFENDANT BE RELEASED BEFORE TRIAL?

Fleeing from a Colorado court’s jurisdiction either before or during a criminal trial is going to have serious and lasting ramifications, and it will not matter if the original charge is a trivial misdemeanor or a serious felony.

A defendant who has been arrested and charged with a crime in this state will usually be held in custody until some form of bail has been posted or until the person is released on his or her own recognizance.

Technically speaking, a bail bond will be denied only in homicide cases and in other cases involving violent felonies. However, if a judge believes that a defendant is likely to flee if he or she is released, that judge can set that defendant’s bond amount insurmountably high.

WHAT DO COURTS CONSIDER WHEN SETTING BOND AMOUNTS?

A judge will set a bond amount that he or she believes will be sufficient to ensure that the defendant will appear for all scheduled court proceedings.

When determining that bond amount figure, a court will take into account the safety risk to the general public, the details and seriousness of the alleged crime, the defendant’s previous criminal record, and the risk of flight posed by the defendant.

WHAT ARE THE CONDITIONS FOR BEING RELEASED ON BOND?

A criminal defendant who is released on bond while awaiting trial in Colorado must also agree to the specified terms and conditions for release:

1. A failure to appear in court as scheduled may result in an arrest and the forfeiture of the bond. Failure to appear is a separate criminal offense punishable upon conviction by up to a year in prison and the loss of eligibility for probation or for a suspended sentence.

2. Standard bond conditions bar defendants from committing a second crime and from leaving the state of Colorado while free on bond and awaiting trial.

3. Defendants must agree to abide by Colorado’s mandatory restraining order that prohibits contact with alleged victims and witnesses in criminal cases.

4. Defendants must immediately inform the court regarding any change of residence.

WHAT CAN HAPPEN IF YOU FAIL TO APPEAR IN COURT AS SCHEDULED?

The paramount condition of a bond is the defendant’s agreement to appear at every scheduled court hearing. It is the defendant’s responsibility to know when and where those hearings are to be conducted.

If you are a criminal defendant in Colorado and you fail to appear in court as scheduled, the court may order your arrest and either revoke your bond or raise the amount of your bond.

WHAT IF YOU MUST LEAVE THE STATE TEMPORARILY?

If you must leave the state while you are awaiting trial, it may only be for a personal or family emergency, and you must obtain the consent of the court. If a bail bonding agent arranged for your bond, you’ll also have to obtain a “consent of surety” document from that bonding agent.

There is no guarantee that you will be able to obtain consent to travel out of state while awaiting trial from either the court or the bail bonding agent. They are under no obligation to grant that consent.

WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR FAILING TO APPEAR IN COURT?

A defendant released on bond related to a felony charge can be convicted of a separate Class Six felony – punishable by “imprisonment of not less than one year” – if he or she knowingly fails to appear for trial or other proceedings or knowingly violates the conditions of the bail bond.

A defendant free on bond for a misdemeanor charge can be convicted of a separate Class Three misdemeanor – punishable by a term of “not less than six months” – if the defendant knowingly fails to appear for trial or other proceedings or knowingly violates the conditions of the bond.

A person convicted for either of these violations becomes automatically ineligible for probation or for a suspended sentence.

WHAT ARE THE DEFENSES AGAINST A FAILURE TO APPEAR CHARGE?

Defendants may only be convicted for knowingly and intentionally violating a bail bond’s terms and conditions.

For example, if you change your residential address while you are awaiting trial, and you notify the court regarding the change of residence, you cannot be convicted of a bond violation if your change of address wasn’t processed promptly and you temporarily could not be located.

If you could not appear in court because you had a medical emergency, you cannot be convicted of a bond violation, but you’ll have to produce the medical documents and receipts that prove your medical emergency was real.

ARE THERE OTHER CONSEQUENCES FOR FLEEING FROM PROSECUTION?

However, if you knowingly and intentionally flee from the court’s jurisdiction while awaiting trial or during the course of a trial, and if you are convicted of violating your bond, any future arrest may mean an insurmountably high bond amount.

Moreover, if you flee before or during a criminal trial, when that trial begins or resumes, you will not be able to suppress the information about your flight to avoid prosecution.

In a 2015 case (People v. Gee), the Colorado Court of Appeals determined that information that the accused fled Colorado to avoid prosecution was, in fact, relevant and admissible at trial as evidence of “consciousness of guilt.”

HOW CAN A CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER HELP?

That’s simply one more reason why you must reach out to an experienced Denver criminal defense attorney if you are charged with failing to appear in court or with violating your bond in some other way.

The right defense attorney will answer your legal questions, address your concerns, and fight aggressively for justice on your behalf.

If you’re charged with any crime in Colorado, legal help is your right. Make the call and get the legal help you need – as soon as you need it. Your future – and even your freedom – may depend on it.

By: Dan Murphy

Denver criminal defense lawyer Daniel M. Murphy provides clients in the Denver area with aggressive and sympathetic legal representation. He graduated from the University of Denver Law School in 1994 and worked as a public defender before starting his own practice in 1996. He has defended clients accused of the most difficult criminal and alcohol-related charges. He also serves as a Moot Court Judge for Denver-area law students who rely on his mentorship.

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