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Court Errors Led to Invalidating Bail Bond Company’s $50,000 Bond Forfeiture

Image of a bail bonds sign on a building

Court vacates $50,000 forfeiture by bail bond company; sends case back to trial court

Image of a bail bonds sign on a building

Court vacates $50,000 forfeiture by bail bond company; sends case back to trial court

The Supreme Court of Ohio today vacated a $50,000 bond forfeiture by a bail bond company after determining the trial court failed to enter a final appealable order on the bond forfeiture.

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the trial court failed to adopt the magistrate's decision that ordered the bond forfeited against bail bond company Allegheny Casualty Company. The case was remanded to the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court for further proceedings.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case in early May. At the hearing, justices noted the trial court’s official entries did not match the dates and times of hearings conducted by a magistrate in the case of Allegheny and its client Jaquan Jackson. The Court’s per curiam decision did not address Allegheny’s legal arguments regarding the forfeiture, but concluded there was no final appealable order from the trial court that allowed the case to be appealed.

Bond Forfeited When Suspect Jailed in Kentucky
In late 2018, Jackson was indicted in Hamilton County for drug trafficking and possession charges. Allegheny posted a $50,000 surety bond for Jackson. He and Allegheny agreed to a number of terms and conditions, including that Jackson would appear in trial court when ordered and he would not leave the state without permission.

In March 2019, Jackson pleaded guilty to the charges and was scheduled to be sentenced in April 2019. The day after he pled, Jackson traveled to Campbell County, Kentucky. He was arrested on drug possession, weapon, and driving offenses and jailed in a Kentucky detention center.

Jackson did not appear for his April sentencing in Ohio or a rescheduled sentencing hearing in May. When Jackson did not appear, the trial judge issued an arrest warrant for Jackson and ordered the bail bond to be forfeited.

Bond Company Unaware of Forfeiture Until Months Later
The trial court issued a notice to Allegheny on July 3, 2019, that the bond had been forfeited. The Hamilton County Clerk of Courts mailed notices on July 8 to Allegheny’s Cincinnati area bondsman, which was later returned undelivered, and to Allegheny’s corporate headquarters in Newark, New Jersey. The notices indicated the court set a Sept. 4, 2019, hearing date at which Allegheny would have to “show cause” as to why the $50,000 bail bond shouldn’t be forfeited. The trial court’s magistrate ordered the bond forfeited after no representative from Allegheny appeared at the hearing. 

Allegheny requested that the trial court set aside the forfeiture because Kentucky authorities refused to release Jackson to appear in Ohio courts, which rendered it impossible for the company to produce Jackson. After a March 2020 hearing, the trial court rejected the request and ordered the bond forfeited. Allegheny appealed to the First District Court of Appeals, which affirmed the trial court’s decision.

Supreme Court Notes Discrepancies
The Supreme Court’s opinion noted the documentation from the trial court and the magistrate assigned to consider the matter did not match.

The court docket indicates the magistrate conducted a hearing on Sept. 4, 2019, and issued a ruling on Sept. 27 that Allegheny must forfeit the bond. The docket indicates the trial court adopted the magistrate’s decision on Dec. 31, 2019. That entry, however, listed the name of a defendant who was unrelated to Jackson’s case as the defendant who failed to appear and a bondsman who was not involved in Jackson’s case.

The December entry was also signed by a judge who was not presiding over Allegheny’s bond forfeiture for Jackson’s failure to appear.

The opinion noted that under court rules, a magistrate’s decision is not effective until it is adopted by the court.

“In this case, there is no evidence the trial court adopted the magistrate’s September 27 decision. If not adopted by the court, a magistrate’s decision is not a final, appealable order,” the Court stated.

Because there was no final appealable order, the First District had no jurisdiction to issue a judgment in the case, the Court concluded and returned the case to the trial court.

2021-0742. State v. Jackson, Slip Opinion No. 2022-Ohio-1823.

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Please note: Opinion summaries are prepared by the Office of Public Information for the general public and news media. Opinion summaries are not prepared for every opinion, but only for noteworthy cases. Opinion summaries are not to be considered as official headnotes or syllabi of court opinions. The full text of this and other court opinions are available online.

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