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People v. American Contractors Indemnity Co.

California Court of Appeals, Third District, El Dorado

July 21, 2015

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
AMERICAN CONTRACTORS INDEMNITY CO., Defendant and Appellant.

[CERTIFIED FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION[*]]

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of El Dorado County, No. P12CRM1394 C. Anders Holmer, Judge.[†]

Page 1042

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1043

COUNSEL

E. Alan Nunez and John M. Rorabaugh for Defendant and Appellant.

Robyn Truitt Drivon, County Counsel, and Lesley B. Gomes, Deputy County Counsel, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

OPINION

RENNER, J.

American Contractors Indemnity Co., the surety, appeals from the summary judgment entered in favor of El Dorado County following the forfeiture of a bail bond. The surety argues the trial court entered summary judgment prematurely (before the time for the defendant to appear had elapsed) and also erred in denying the surety’s motion to set aside on the grounds that it was filed too late. We agree with the surety on both points. Accordingly, we will vacate the summary judgment and exonerate the bond.

Page 1044

BACKGROUND REGARDING BAIL BOND STATUTES

“ ‘Certain fixed legal principles guide us in the construction of bail statutes. The law traditionally disfavors forfeitures and this disfavor extends to forfeiture of bail. [Citation.] Thus, [Penal Code] sections 1305 and 1306 must be strictly construed in favor of the surety to avoid the harsh results of a forfeiture.’ [Citation.]” (People v. Ranger Ins. Co. (2000) 77 Cal.App.4th 813, 816 [91 Cal.Rptr.2d 907] (Ranger Ins. Co).) “The standard of review, therefore, compels us to protect the surety, and more importantly the individual citizens who pledge to the surety their property on behalf of persons seeking release from custody, in order to obtain the corporate bond.” (County of Los Angeles v. Surety Ins. Co. (1984) 162 Cal.App.3d 58, 62 [208 Cal.Rptr. 263].) "'Where . . . statute[s] such as [Penal Code] section[s] 1305 [and 1306] require[] a court to exercise its jurisdiction in a particular manner, to follow a particular procedure, or to perform subject to certain limitations, an act beyond those limits is in excess of its jurisdiction. [Citations.]’ [Citation.]” (Ranger Ins. Co., supra, at p. 816, italics omitted.)

When a defendant has been granted bail and fails to appear without sufficient cause for an ordered appearance, the court is required to declare bail forfeited. (Pen. Code, § 1305, subd. (a).) The clerk must mail notice of the forfeiture to the surety and the bail agent within 30 days of the forfeiture. (Pen. Code, § 1305, subd. (b).) When, as here, the notice is mailed, the surety then has 185 days from the notice of forfeiture to produce the defendant or show that he or she is otherwise in custody.[1] If the surety produces the defendant in court or shows evidence he or she is otherwise in custody, the trial court must set aside the forfeiture and exonerate the bond. (Pen. Code, § 1305, subds. (b) & (c)(1).) The court may only enter summary judgment when the appearance period “has elapsed without the forfeiture having been set aside....” (Pen. Code, § 1306, subd. (a), italics added.) After the appearance period expires, the trial court must enter summary judgment against the surety within 90 days. (Pen. Code, § 1306, subds. (a) & (c); People v. Granite State Insurance Co. (2003) 114 Cal.App.4th 758, ...


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