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Financial Casualty Insurance Co. v. State

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

June 6, 2013

FINANCIAL CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY
v.
STATE OF MARYLAND

Eyler, Deborah S., Hotten, Kenney, James A., III, (Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ.

MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION

OPINION

KENNEY, J.

Appellant, Financial Casualty Insurance Company ("Financial Casualty"), [1] posted a bond for George Butch Spencer. When Spencer failed to appear for trial, the Circuit Court for Baltimore County ordered the bond forfeited and later entered judgment against Financial Casualty for the full amount of the bond. 4 Aces Bail Bonds, Inc., [2] "on behalf of" Financial Casualty, filed a Petition for Remission, which the circuit court denied. In this timely appeal, Financial Casualty presents one question for our review, which we have revised: did the trial court abuse its discretion in denying the Petition for Remission?

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On March 3, 2009, Spencer was charged by criminal information with various narcotics charges. Bail was set at $25, 000, and Spencer was "released from commitment" on March 9, 2009 when Financial Casualty, through bondsman Calvin Jones, posted a bond in that amount. The bond states that it "shall continue in full force and effect until discharged pursuant of Rule 4-217."

Spencer did not appear for trial on October 15, 2009. The docket entry states, in pertinent part, "Bail forfeited. Bench Warrant issued." The next day, October 16, 2009, a warrant was issued for Spencer's arrest. An undated letter from the court was sent to bondsman Jones, stating, in pertinent part:

As Surety for [Spencer], you have 90 days (14th day of January, 2010) to satisfy this forfeiture by either producing [Spencer] in court, or by paying the penalty sum on the bond. If the bail forfeiture has not been stricken, or satisfied within 90 days, a judgment will be entered against [Spencer] and Surety for the penalty sum of the bail, with interest from the date of the forfeiture.

The record further indicates that a "Notice of Recorded Judgment" in the amount of $25, 000 "plus interests and costs" was entered on March 31, 2010 against Spencer and Financial Casualty. The docket entry for May 27, 2010 reflects a "Forfeiture of $25, 000.00."

On February 7, 2011, writs of habeas corpus were sent from the court to Jones and the Warden of the Baltimore City Detention Center, stating: "You are hereby COMMANDED TO HAVE THE BODY of . . . Spencer before" the court on March 7, 2011. A "criminal Postponement Hearing Request Form, " dated March 7, 2011 states that "[Spencer] not brought from Balto City jail, " and the case was reset for April 7, 2011.[3] Writs were also sent on March 14, 2011, commanding Spencer's presence on April 7, 2011. A "Criminal Postponement Hearing Request Form, " dated April 7, 2011, states Spencer's location as "city jail, " and the case was reset to June 2, 2011.

The "Peace Officer's Return" section of the bench warrant that was issued on October 16, 2009 indicates that the warrant and charging document were served on Spencer on April 23, 2011.[4] Another section of the warrant, dated April 25, 2011, states that "[Spencer] is currently at the Baltimore County Detention Center." The "Report of Prisoner Brought to Circuit Court for Baltimore County, " dated April 26, 2011, states that Spencer was remanded to "BCBC, " which likely stands for the Baltimore County Bureau of Corrections. A handwritten note on the document in the section entitled "Bail Hearing Held" states "Bench Warrant [Spencer] adv why he was picked up." On May 5, 2011, a writ of habeas corpus was sent to the Baltimore County Bureau of Corrections commanding Spencer's appearance on June 2, 2011. On August 22, 2011, Spencer pled guilty to the manufacture and distribution of narcotics; the other charges against him were nolle prossed. He was sentenced to 10 years incarceration, "suspend all but time served."

On June 9, 2011, 4 Aces Bail Bonds, Inc., "on behalf of" Financial Casualty, filed a Petition for Remission with the circuit court, citing § 5-208 of the Criminal Procedure Article. The Petition, in pertinent part, states:

1.That on or about the 10th day of April 2009, [5] a bond in the amount of $25, 000.00 was posted in the Circuit Court of Maryland guaranteeing the appearance of [Spencer] at trial.
2.On the 16th day of October 2009, [Spencer] failed to appear for trial in the Circuit Court. A bench warrant was issued and the bond was ordered forfeited, to be payable within ninety (90) days.
3. On the 31st day of May 2010, [Financial Casualty] in the amount of $25, 000.00 plus interest made payment of the bond.
4.On the 3rd day of May 2011, [Spencer] was surrendered and the bail warrant was served.

At the hearing on the Petition, the following exchange occurred:

[FINANCIAL CASUALTY'S COUNSEL]: Well, your honor, . . . [§ 5-208(c) of the Criminal Procedure Article], proof that he's [confined] in a correctional institution in the United States. He's in Baltimore County Detention Center.
[THE COURT]: But, I mean, the fact that they later get picked up on something. The question is what if any efforts did [the surety] have anything to do with that eventual detention? And did it, did, you know, I mean, the bail is posted to ensure their presence. When they don't show up the fact that they get arrested for something else a year or so down the road doesn't mean you get your money back, unless I'm missing something in this Statute.
[FINANCIAL CASUALTY'S COUNSEL]: Okay. Well, your honor, in the Statute I mean it's said, I mean, evidence of confinement in a correctional ...

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