Sometimes the black letter law passed by the legislature is unclear. The legislature can’t anticipate every possible fact scenario when they pass a law, so it lay to the courts to interpret the law and give guidance to what it means. This interpretation is called case law. When the court decides a certain meeting to the law it essentially answers a legal question. Lawyers and other courts then can rely on that ruling when they have a similar issue in their case. The following case answers the question above.
State v. Midland Ins. Co., 494 P.2d 1228 (Kan. 1972).
This case addresses the following issue:
What is the purpose of an appearance bond?
This case explored the topic of the purpose of an appearance bond. In exploring this topic, the court concluded that the purpose of an appearance bond was not to enrich the public treasury but to serve the convenience of a party accused of a crime, but not convicted, without interfering with or defeating the administration of justice. Id. at 1232.
The defendant, an insurance company, served as Louis Jones’s surety, meaning that they took responsibility for Jones showing up to his court appearance. Id. at 1230. Jones did not show up to his court appearance so the State of Kansas took action to recover $5,000 for Jones’s breach of his appearance bond. Id. The appearance bond was a promise by Jones that he would show up to court and if he did not, the defendant had to pay the appearance bond. Id. In the end, the trial court determined that the defendant owed the State for the face amount of the bond and the defendant appealed. Id.
The defendant’s main argument was that they should not have to pay the $5,000 because they followed Kansas law and arrested and surrendered Jones to a custodial officer at their own expense and paid or offered to pay all costs incurred by the State resulting from Jones not showing up to court. Id. at 1231. On the contrary, the State argued that before they would release the defendant of the $5,000 from the appearance bond, a satisfactory excuse must be presented for Jones’s failure to show up to court. Id.
Ultimately, the court determined that the main question in this case was whether the trial court abused its power in refusing to free the defendant of the $5,000. Id. Before answering this question, the court addressed a few basics about bails and bonds. According to the court, the primary purpose of a bail was not to beef up public revenues or to punish the accused; rather, it was to permit a person accused of crime, but whose guilt had not been established, to remain out of prison pending trial while ensuring that he would be present in court to meet the charges directed against him. Id. Additionally, the court concluded that the purpose of an appearance bond was not to enrich the treasury, but to serve the convenience of the party accused but not convicted, without interfering with or defeating the administration of justice. Id. at 1232. Moreover, upon entering into an appearance bond, the accused was in effect released to the surety (the insurance company in this case) and the surety had the responsibility to take the accused into custody and surrender them to the court. Id.
In response to the State’s argument, the defendant noted that Jones’s absence from court did not occur with the defendant’s knowledge, consent, or support. Id. at 1233. In response, the court did not find the defendant’s allegation disputed anywhere in the record, nor did the State attempt any denial. Id. Therefore, the court reached the conclusion that the trial court failed to exercise its power when they ordered the defendant to pay the $5,000 appearance bond. Id.