WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU FLED TO ANOTHER STATE OR COUNTRY WHILE ON BOND FOR A CRIME IN FLORIDA

It’s not unusual for someone facing a criminal charge to make the foolish decision of absconding, which is the legal word for leaving before the case is finished, while on bond for a criminal charge in Florida. The reasons for leaving don’t always have to do with fear of punishment, but may include being overwhelmed by the pending criminal court case. Yet even the best reason or motive one may have had for leaving will be of little importance if Florida finds the absconder and begins the process of extradition.

The first important consideration is whether the case was resolved or unresolved when the defendant absconded. If the defendant plead guilty or was convicted by a jury, then the case was resolved and the defendant was waiting for sentencing. But if the defendant has not been found guilty of the offense, then the case remains unresolved and is very much still pending. 

In cases that are unresolved the Defendant’s absconding will trigger a review of the file by prosecutors to determine if the case is still viable. The criteria of viability is whether prosecutors are persuaded that the case is still winnable at trial, which is the same criteria prosecutors use in making an initial filing decision. Factors prosecutors will look to include availability of evidence and witnesses.

In a sense the case begins again. Yet it’s unlikely that a judge will grant any kind of bond while the case is pending because of the failure to appear. The only way a bond would likely be issued is if the defendant turned himself in or the defendant’s counsel can establish to the court that the case involves a nonviolent crime, that the defendant is not a threat to run again or that the case if very weak. 

Having looked at unresolved criminal cases, let’s look at resolved criminal cases in which the defendant absconded before either pleading guilty or bing found guilty at trial. Here are several factors that a judge might take into account in determine what an appropriate sentence would now be if the case was resolved before flight where the only issue is what the sentence will be rather than guilt or innocence. 

First, the court will look at the underlying Florida scoresheet and guidelines to determine what the guideline range was at the time as a baseline for sentencing. This will not necessarily be the limit of possible prison time in that other factors will also be looked at.

Second, the court will add any points for additional charges. One typical charge that prosecutors may file is simply an escape charge. Escape would typically be filed if a defendant plead or was found guilty at trial but absconded before the sentencing date. An escape charge will not only add more prison time, but make whatever time is served much more stringent.

Third, the court will look at what the defendant was doing while away. Was the defendant a model citizen in the community or was he arrested on other charges during the time he absconded?

As you can see if you have a resolved or unresolved pending criminal case in Florida, it’s important to consider all of the consequences with a criminal defense lawyer before returning to Florida.