The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled yesterday that bail companies must forfeit bonds to the state when defendants do not show up in court, even when suspects flee to countries that refuse extradition requests and prosecutors do not seek their return to the United States.
The 6-0 decision came in the case of Flavio Bail Bonds LLC of New Britain, which, barring further appeals, now must pay the state $125,000 for the bonds it posted for David Sheriff after his arrest on marijuana charges in 2006. Authorities say Sheriff fled to his native Jamaica in 2008, just two days before his trial was supposed to begin, and remains at large.
Jamaica refuses in most cases to extradite its citizens to the United States in drug cases. Connecticut authorities say they arrested Sheriff after they found more than 20 pounds of marijuana in his Bloomfield home during a drug investigation. Sheriff pleaded not guilty.
Flavio’s lawyer, William Sweeney, argued that the company should not have to forfeit Sheriff’s bonds because state prosecutors never sought to extradite him from Jamaica, and the firm’s agents have no authority to go to the island nation to get him.
Sweeney also said there’s a conflict of interest in state laws on extradition and bond forfeitures, because they appear to discourage the state from seeking extradition with the prospect of filling its coffers with forfeited bond money.
The Supreme Court rejected those arguments and upheld a Superior Court judge’s ruling. Justice Peter Zarella wrote in the decision that Flavio failed to show good cause – as defined by an 1869 Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors decision that was upheld by the US Supreme Court in 1872 – as to why it should not have to forfeit Sheriff’s bonds.
State justices also upheld their predecessors’ ruling in 1869.
“Other than its citation to the holdings of cases from other jurisdictions and its expression of its desire that we change our law, Flavio simply has not provided any ‘cogent reasons’ or ‘inescapable logic’ that would require us to overturn our long-standing precedent,’’ Zarella wrote.
Sweeney said that he and his client were reviewing the ruling and considering their options, including a possible appeal to the Supreme Court.
Sweeney said he believes the ruling sets a precedent that will make bail bond companies extra cautious about bonds they post.
“It’s a difficult road for the bonds people,’’ he said.
Nancy Chupak, senior assistant state’s attorney who argued the case on the state’s behalf, did not return a phone message yesterday.
This article was written by Dave Collins and was published by the Associated Press on July 12, 2011.
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