STATE v. DAVID SHERIFF, SC 18293
Judicial District of New Britain
Criminal; Whether Bail Bondsman was Entitled to Release from Bonds and Rebate of Bond Forfeitures Where Defendant Fled to Jamaica and Where State will not Seek Extradition. David Sheriff, a Jamaican national, was arrested and jailed in Connecticut in connection with drug charges. Flavio Bail Bonds, LLC (Flavio), executed three bail bonds totaling $125,000 to secure his release. When Sheriff failed to appear in court, the court ordered the bonds forfeited pursuant to General Statutes § 54-65a. Flavio then moved that it be released of its obligations under the bonds and that it be refunded the forfeited money because Sheriff had fled to Jamaica and it had no lawful authority to effect his return to this country. Flavio claimed that because the state had both the ability to institute extradition proceedings and the authority, under General Statutes § 51-279b, to compromise and settle forfeited bonds, there was an inherent conflict in allowing the state to control the collection and compromise of the bonds forfeited here. The court denied Flavio's motion, finding that it had no authority to excuse Flavio from its obligations and that the only power to compromise a bond was vested in the Chief State's Attorney under § 51-279b. The court also rejected Flavio's claim that the state could secure Sheriff's return to Connecticut, noting that the state had represented that Jamaica will not extradite its citizens to the United States to face prosecution for drug offenses. The court observed that the escape of a criminal defendant is a business risk faced by all bail bondsmen and cited Ohio precedent holding that the fact that a defendant cannot be produced for foreign policy reasons does not constitute a valid defense to a bond forfeiture. Finally, the court noted that there was no evidence that Flavio took any precautionary measures to prevent Sheriff's flight. Flavio now brings this writ of error claiming that it demonstrated good cause for the release of its obligations under the bonds because, while it took every legal action to secure Sheriff's return, it is powerless to seize him in Jamaica. Flavio also contends that the statutory scheme that vests in the state both the authority to compromise bonds and the power to seek a defendant's extradition presents a conflict of interest as the state will be disinclined to seek extradition where it has been enriched by forfeited bond funds.