How would you like to have the government take $50,000 of your money because of something someone else did?
A new appellate court opinion was issued last week that might be of interest to the general public. It concerns what can happens to the money put up by a third party to bail someone out.
The case was People v. Pamela Williams, 2012 IL App (2) 111157. According to the opinion, Ms. Williams was charged with multiple counts of theft. She needed $50,000 to bond out of jail. Her brother-in-law, Arwood K. Edwards, was willing to do so, because he believed in Ms. Williams’ innocence.
Before Mr. Edwards could post the bond, a special hearing was held, to ensure that the money being used to post the bond were not obtained as a result of the allegedly fraudulent conduct. During this hearing, it was stated in court that Mr. Edward had been advised that the money that he posted for Ms. Williams’ bond could be used to pay fines, court costs and/or restitution. The Court found that the money was not obtained from the fraud, and Mr. Edwards was allowed to post the bond. When he did so, he signed a form which again stated that the funds could be used for fines, fees, court costs, attorneys fees and/or restitution, or forfeited if the defendant failed to appear in court.
Subsequently, Ms. Williams plead guilty to ten counts of theft, and she was ordered to pay $1,800,000.00 in restitution. Her attorneys filed a motion seeking to have the bond money returned to Mr. Edwards. The State objected, and a hearing was held before a DuPage County judge.
According to the opinion, at the hearing:
The defendant’s attorney read a statement on behalf of Edwards that said that when he posted the
bond the defendant had pleaded not guilty, and Edwards believed that the defendant was innocent.
The statement went on to say that, if Edwards had known that the defendant was guilty, he would
not have provided the bail money. The defendant’s attorney argued that it would be a travesty to take
money from a third party who was not involved in the crimes. He additionally argued that, because
Edwards had recently injured himself and had a severely disabled son, the trial court should consider
these personal circumstances in determining whether equity required exoneration of the bond.
Finally, the defendant’s attorney argued that using the bail money for restitution was not mandatory
and that, under the circumstances, using it would be unfair
Unfortunately for Mr. Edwards, the trial court ruled against him. The court ruled that when Mr. Edwards knowingly posted the bond, he accepted the risks inherent in posting a bond for another person. The court held that it was not obligated to consider the essential fairness of taking Mr. Edwards’ money to pay for Ms. Williams’ crimes.
Mr. Edwards also raised a technical defense, that the Notice to Surety on the bond form did not comport with the requirements under the bond statute, 725 ILCS 5/110-7. The Court agreed that the bond form did not meet the statutory requirements, but that compliance with the statute was not be strictly enforced.
I should also point out that it is becoming commonplace in many jurisdictions for bond money to be used, not only for court costs, fines and restitution on the pending case, but also to pay any outstanding balances on any other cases that the defendant might have in that jurisdiction.
So be warned: if you have a relative or friend who is charged with a crime, and begs you to post his or her bond, you should be prepared to kiss that money goodbye.