Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, August 21, 2023


Page 3


Court of Appeal:

Prosecution’s Indecision Doesn’t Justify Bail Forfeiture

Wiley Says That If D.A.’s Office Is Uncertain Whether to Seek Extradition of Fugitive Within Period for Seeking Exoneration of Tentatively Forfeited Bond, Judge Must Order Extension of Period Until Decision Is Reached


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The Court of Appeal for this district held Friday that a judge was obliged to extend the period for seeking exoneration of a $100,000 bail bond that had been forfeited when the defendant fled where the bonding company had located the fugitive in Mexico and temporarily detained him within the period for seeking a return of the money but the prosecution had not yet decided whether to seek extradition.

Appealing a judgment by Santa Clara Superior Court Judge My-Le Jacqueline Duong were the surety, North River Insurance Company, and the bail agent, Bad Boys Bail Bonds.

The criminal defendant, Geovanni Quijadas Silva, accused of a lewd act on a child, failed to show up for a hearing on Feb. 22, 2018, and the bond was declared forfeited; an investigator located Silva on March 15, 2019; the bail bond company and the surety had been granted two extensions of the 180-day period within which to move to vacate the forfeiture and to exonerate its bond, with the deadline set at March 20, 2019.

Trial Court’s Ruling

Duong on June 28, 2019, ruled that because the Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office “had not made a decision regarding extradition as of the date of March 20, 2019,” and “no statutory provisions require such decision” within the time period for seeking a return of forfeited funds—and the prosecution opposed a further extension—no relief could be afforded. On July 10, 2019, a $100,000 judgment was entered against the surety.

But the bail statute, Justice John Shepard Wiley Jr. of Div. Eight pointed out in his decision reversing Duong’s judgment, “expressly directs courts to seek justice” and the result reached was contrary to that goal.

 “Because prosecutors would not decide, and because prosecutors would not agree to a delay to allow themselves to decide, North River had to forfeit its bail money, said the trial court, “he scoffed. “We reverse.”

Penal Code §1305(g)

Relief was sought by the surety and the bail agent (collectively denominated “North River” in the opinion) under Penal Code §1305(g) which says, with italicizing added by Wiley:

“In all cases of forfeiture where a defendant is not in custody and is beyond the jurisdiction of the state, is temporarily detained, by the bail agent, in the presence of a local law enforcement officer of the jurisdiction in which the defendant is located, and is positively identified by that law enforcement officer as the wanted defendant in an affidavit signed under penalty of perjury, and the prosecuting agency elects not to seek extradition after being informed of the location of the defendant, the court shall vacate the forfeiture and exonerate the bond on terms that are just and do not exceed the terms imposed in similar situations with respect to other forms of pretrial release.”

Wiley declared:

“We hold the trial court either had to ask the prosecution to announce its extradition decision or had to grant North River’s request to continue the appearance period to give the prosecution enough time to make its decision. This interpretation is the reasonable construction of a statute that has the explicit purpose of achieving justice.

“The prosecution contends section 1305, subdivision (g) applies only if it decides not to extradite the defendant within the appearance period. The text of that subdivision, however, says nothing about a deadline for the prosecution to make its decision.”

Beyond Appellants’ Control

He explained:

“Bail rules, including appearance periods, give bail companies predictable deadlines for what can be a challenging and expensive hunt. They must find fugitives and file section 1305, subdivision (g) motions within that period. North River did that. There is no reason to require the prosecution’s decision, a decision completely beyond the bail company’s control, to fall within the period.”

The jurist went on to say:

“Courts generally do not interfere with prosecutorial decisions….

“It does not interfere with prosecutorial discretion to give prosecutors time for them to make a decision.

“The reasonable reading of the statute does require the prosecutor to make some extradition decision before the court forfeits the bail. What will that decision be? That is entirely up to prosecutors. The trial court should have asked for the prosecution’s decision or should have continued the hearing until the prosecution made its decision.”

Previous Opinion

An opinion affirming the judgment was filed on Feb. 7. Wiley wrote the majority opinion, in which Justice Elizabeth A. Grimes joined.

Presiding Justice Maria E. Stratton dissented, saying:

“A fair reading of the statute contemplates a prosecutorial decision on extradition before bail is forfeited. The trial court should have required the People to make that decision in response to the motion to vacate the forfeiture or it should have continued the hearing until the People did so. Forfeiture under these circumstances is not right.”

Friday’s opinion follows an order granting a rehearing and further briefing.

In his original opinion, Wiley put emphasis on Div. Eight’s May 29, 2015 decision in People v. Tingcungco. The opinion was authored by then-Justice Laurence D. Rubin (now presiding justice of Div. Five), who wrote:

“[W]e conclude that compliance with subdivision (g) requires the surety to locate the fugitive far enough in advance of the end of the 180-day appearance period to allow the prosecutor to decide whether or not to extradite. If the prosecutor chooses to extradite before the appearance period ends, tolling may be granted under subdivision (h), but only if the prosecutor, having decided to extradite, agrees to do so.”

Rubin pointed out that in February 2012, a bill was introduced in the state Senate that would have amended §1305(g) to require the court to declare a tolling of the 180-day exoneration period where the prosecution “fails to make an extradition decision within a reasonable period of time after” notification of the fugitive’s whereabouts but that the language was dropped from the bill.

“The Legislature’s rejection of a specific provision which appeared in the original version of an act supports the conclusion that the act should not be construed to include the omitted provision,” Rubin reasoned.

Wiley’s Initial View

In his Feb. 7 opinion, Wiley said:

“Here the legislative history shows the Legislature considered the purpose North River proposes but rejected this approach in favor of the current statute’s wording, which is inhospitable to this proposed interpretation. The decision in Tingcungco explained all that. North River does not negate or engage that analysis. Its claim to fidelity to legislative purpose lacks a footing in text or history.”

Taking a fresh look at the matter, Wiley cast aside his initial impressions. He noted that in its 1996 opinion in Arnett v. Dal Cielo, the California Supreme Court cautioned against interpreting legislative intent on the basis of language omitted from a bill, and said:

“Following Arnett v. Dal Cielo, we give little weight to the unpassed amendment upon which much of the Tingcungco opinion relied. Perhaps everyone thought the amendment was a good idea but new priorities eclipsed the issue. Perhaps everyone disliked only part of the amendment and cut it all. There are infinite other possibilities. Drawing an inference from inaction can be misleading, for inaction, like silence, is often ambiguous.”

He added:

“An idea—one that many thought was a good idea—just got lost in the shuffle. That does not mean the good idea was bad.”

The case is People v. North River Insurance Company (Bad Boys Bail Bonds), B322752.


Copyright 2023, Metropolitan News Company