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The People v. Accredited Surety and Casualty Company

March 1, 2012

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
ACCREDITED SURETY AND CASUALTY COMPANY, INC., DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Stanislaus County. Donald E. Shaver, Judge. (Super. Ct. No. 1250722)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cornell, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Accredited Surety and Casualty Company, Inc. (Accredited), was the surety on a $50,000 bail bond issued to secure the release of Todd Russell Sargent from the Stanislaus County jail. The bail was ordered forfeited when Sargent failed to appear in court. During the 180-day exoneration period, Sargent was arrested in Merced County, and the trial court signed an order for his transfer to Stanislaus County. Accredited did not make a motion to vacate the forfeiture and exonerate the bond or to toll the exoneration period. Sargent next appeared in Stanislaus County Superior Court after the exoneration period expired.

After the exoneration period expired, the trial court granted the People's motion for summary judgment on the bond. Accredited argues that the exoneration period was tolled as a matter of law pursuant to Penal Code section 1305, subdivision (e).*fn1 We disagree, concluding that Accredited was required to make a motion to toll the exoneration period before it expired.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL SUMMARY

On August 15, 2008, a $50,000 bail bond was posted by A.J.'s Bail Bonds to secure the release of Sargent from jail in Stanislaus County. Accredited was the surety on the bond. On March 8, 2010, Sargent failed to appear in court and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest. Bail was ordered forfeited. Notice of the forfeiture was mailed on March 9. The exoneration period thus expired 185 days later, on September 10.

On August 17, 2010, the district attorney filed a declaration seeking an order of production for Sargent. In his declaration the district attorney indicated that Sargent was incarcerated in the Merced County jail. The trial court signed an order on August 12, 2010 (the transfer order), to produce Sargent in Stanislaus County for proceedings in this action.

On October 5, 2010, Sargent appeared in court in Stanislaus County, the bench warrant was recalled, bail was reinstated, and Sargent was released on bail.

The county, on behalf of the People, subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment asserting that because Accredited failed to file a motion to vacate the forfeiture within the exoneration period, and the trial court failed to order the forfeiture vacated on its own motion, the trial court lost jurisdiction to vacate the forfeiture when the exoneration period expired on September 10, 2010.

The trial court granted the county's motion. It also set aside the October 5 order that reinstated the bail bond. Summary judgment was entered on the bond.

DISCUSSION

Relying on section 1305, subdivisions (c)(1), (3) and (e)(1),*fn2 Accredited argues the trial court erred in granting the People's motion for summary judgment for three reasons. First, Accredited contends that because the trial court was aware, or in the words of the statute, it appeared to the satisfaction of the trial court, that Sargent was in custody in another county, it was required to toll the exoneration period pursuant to the provisions of subdivision (e)(1). Second, because Sargent was in custody in another county, the trial court was required to exonerate the bond pursuant to subdivision (c)(3). Third, when Sargent appeared in court on October 5, 2010, the trial court was required to exonerate the bond pursuant to subdivision (c)(1). Each contention can be disposed of by referring to the statute itself and People v. Indiana Lumbermens Mutual Ins. Co. (2010) 49 Cal.4th 301 (Lumbermens Mutual).)

Section 1305

This statute covers a wide range of issues related to bail bonds. It begins by requiring the trial court to declare the bail forfeited if a defendant fails to appear in court as required under the circumstances stated in the statute. (Subd. (a).)

The clerk of the court is required to mail notice of the forfeiture to the surety and the bail agent if the bond is over $400. (Subd. (b).) If the clerk fails to mail notice of the forfeiture within 30 days, fails to mail the notice to the address on the bond, or fails to mail a copy of the notice to the bail agent, the surety then is released of all obligations on the bond. (Ibid.)

Section 1305 next addresses exoneration of the bond in different factual contexts. First, exoneration is required if the defendant appears in court within 180 days from the date the notice of forfeiture was mailed. (Subd. (c)(1).) Upon the defendant's timely appearance, "the court shall, on its own motion at the time the defendant first appears in court on the case in which the forfeiture was entered, direct the order of forfeiture to be vacated and the bond exonerated."*fn3 (Ibid.) Subdivision (c)(1) also provides for exoneration by operation of law if the trial court fails to act on its own motion: "If the court fails to so act on its own motion, then the surety's ... obligations under the bond shall be immediately vacated and the bond exonerated."

The second situation in which exoneration is required occurs when the defendant is surrendered to custody within the exoneration period, but is released from custody prior to appearing in court. (Subd. (c)(2).) In this situation, "the court shall, on its own motion, direct the order of forfeiture to be vacated and the bond exonerated." (Ibid.) Subdivision (c)(2) also provides for exoneration by operation of law if the trial court fails to act on its own motion using language identical to that found in subdivision (c)(1).

Subdivision (c)(3) addresses exoneration when the defendant is arrested or surrendered to custody in another county within the exoneration period. In this third situation, subdivision (c)(3) states that "the court shall vacate the forfeiture and exonerate the bail." Noticeably absent from this subdivision is a provision requiring the ...


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