What Does It Mean To Have Your Bond "Forfeited" in Texas?
Getting Arrested and Sued
It means two things. First, it means that you're going to be arrested. Second, it means that you're going to be sued.
The "you're going to be arrested" part doesn't require any more explanation. So let's talk about what you're going to be sued for. When you sign a personal bond, you're promising at least two things.
Promise that you will show up in court
First, you promise that you'll show up in court on time on the dates you're supposed to show up.
Second, you promise that if you don't show up like you promised, then you'll pay the county a certain amount of money.
For example, suppose you have a personal bond for $5,000 and that you don't show up. If you don't show up, the court will "forfeit" your bond. When the Judge forfeits your bond, that means the Judge called your name in open court when you were supposed to be there, and you didn't answer.
The County Attorney Will Sue You
Fight the Lawsuit or Pay the Penalty
The forfeiture of your bond is what starts the process of the County Attorney suing you for $5,000. If you don't timely file an answer and successfully fight the County Attorney's lawsuit, the civil court will order you to pay $5,000 plus court costs to the County Attorney.
Your Obligation to the Bondsman
What happens when you do not show up in Court
Let's suppose you have a surety bond for $5,000. When a surety bondsman posts a bond, both you and he are making some promises, both to the Court and to each other. The promises you make to the Court is the same as with a personal bond.
The promise your bondsman makes to the Court is that if you don't show up, then the County can sue him on the bond and collect $5,000. The promises you make to you bondsman are that: (1) you'll show up in court on time on the dates you're supposed to show up; and (2) that if you don't keep the promise to show up, and the County sues the bondsman on the bond, then you'll pay the bondsman back.
Collateral for your Bond
You could lose your House or even your Car.
Often times, before the bondsman even writes the bond in the first place, he will require you to provide some kind of collateral to secure payment on the bond. Sometimes he'll put a lien on your house or take the title documents to your car, plus a key to your car.
Now, if you're really interested in the technicalities of all this, read on. If you just wanted the basic point of it all, stop reading.
Capias VS. Arrest Warrant
If the Judge orders a Capias you are going to Jail
If the judge forfeits your bond, the judge will generally order a "capias" issued for your arrest. A "capias" is a court order that commands any peace officer of the State of Texas to arrest you and take you to court either immediately or at a later time. If it is at a later time, then as soon as they find you’re going to jail to wait until that later time.
A "capias" is a little different from an "arrest warrant." An "arrest warrant" has to be supported by a probable cause affidavit, which is usually sworn to by a peace officer in front of a magistrate, explaining why there is probable cause to believe that a particular crime was committed and why there is probable cause to believe that a particular person committed that crime.
A "capias" requires no explanation from anybody. If the judge thinks you didn't show up for court, then the judge issues a court order for your arrest.
The bottom line, though, is it doesn't matter whether your name is on a "capias" or on an arrest warrant; if the police stop you, you’re going to jail.