The criminal justice system in Australia is filled with many different complexities and nuances. This fact alone makes retaining a lawyer a smart move so you are always aware of your rights. One aspect that you may have at the very least heard about is bail. If you are ever granted bail, it is important that you follow the terms and conditions that allow for your release to the letter.
What people often fail to realise until it is too late are the consequences of violating their bail conditions, which not only can nullify the bail that is granted, but also snarl the existing charges you have pending.
Here, we'll discuss what is considered a breach of bail conditions and the resulting ramifications so you can better understand why it's so important to follow the rules. But first, here is a quick refresher:
What bail is and is not
If you are ever taken into custody for a crime you did or did not commit, the granting of bail can keep you out of jail. However, this is contingent upon you agreeing to certain preconditions, which typically include reporting to a police station, remaining at a certain street address and appearing in court on or by a specific date.
It's important to understand that bail is not a right. In other words, it is not something that you can obtain purely for being a citizen in Australia who is presumed innocent until proven otherwise. The police or a judge grants bail on a case-by-case basis, depending on whether you have a place to live, whether you have gainful employment and if you have a criminal record, among other factors.
Failure to appear in court
One of those factors is whether you neglected to come to court by the date specified after a previous encounter with the law. Remember, bail above all else is an agreement. In return for an interim release from prison, you consent to follow the rules and regulations of the conditional release. By not appearing in court, you are breaking the law, and in doing so, the violation will go on your record.
Aside from reducing the chances you will ever be granted bail again, failure to appear in court to face the charges may result in a warrant out for your arrest. In fact, a warrant may not need to be issued. This is made possible under the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act, which was signed into law in 2000. It states:
"It is lawful for a police officer to arrest the person, without warrant, if the police officer reasonably suspects the person is likely to contravene, is contravening or has contravened the condition for the person's appearance or another condition of the undertaking on which the person was granted bail."
In short, non-compliance means you are surrendering an obligation police officers are required to obtain – a warrant – in order to arrest you. Additionally, you may be subjected to a fine in the thousands of dollars and have years added to your jail sentence. Even if you are found not guilty of the original crime for which you were accused, you may have to serve time for not coming to court.
Not attending drug or alcohol assessment
Depending on the nature of the crime for which you are accused, such as substance abuse, you may be required to go to an alcohol or drug rehabilitation program. Here as well, this is not something that you have a say in – you must attend even if you do not feel it is necessary. In rare cases, you may have a legitimate reason for not going. But it is important to emphasise that these scenarios are the exception, not the rule.
As a result of not going or missing an appointment, your bail may be nullified and additional charges may be filed.
Commit an offence while on bail
This one almost goes without saying, but it is important to mention nevertheless. Bail not only means that you stay out of jail while you await a court date, but also means that you must avoid any brushes with the law in the interim. Even if the penalty is not considered serious, such as a parking ticket or jaywalking, your bail may be revoked and result in being taken back into custody.
There are of course exceptions to every rule, which may include breaching bail. If you are in such a situation, or if there is anything else we can help you with, get in touch with our team.