Thursday, July 30, 2015

Prosecutor's Office can Represent the State in Bail Forfeiture Proceedings

State v. Miles (ICA June 23, 2015)
Background. Robert Miles was charged with felony offenses. His bail bond company, Exodus Bail Bonds, posted bail on his behalf in the amount of $5,000. Miles pleaded guilty, but did not show up for his sentencing hearing. The circuit court issued a bail forfeiture judgment on October 8, 2012. On November 21, 2012, the prosecuting attorney’s office sent a letter to Exodus notifying it that the bail forfeiture judgment had been filed. Exodus filed a motion to set aside the forfeiture on the grounds that Miles had surrendered. The circuit court wanted more proof of the actual surrendering and denied the motion without prejudice. No additional proof was presented to the court and the motion to set aside remained denied. Exodus appealed.

The Prosecutor has Standing to Represent the State at a Bail Forfeiture Hearing. A surety may obtain relief from a bail forfeiture judgment “upon good cause shown why execution should not issue[.]” HRS § 804-51. Absent a good cause, the bond must be forfeited. State v. Vaimili, 131 Hawaii 9, 17, 313 P.3d 698, 706 (2013). Here, Exodus does not challenge the lack-of-good-cause finding by the circuit court. Instead, it argued that the prosecutor had no place at the hearing on its motion to set aside forfeiture.

The Prosecutor’s Source of Power. The office of the prosecuting attorney is indeed a county office, but each county has “the power to provide by charter for the prosecution of all offenses and to prosecute for offenses against the laws of the State under the authority of the attorney general of the State[.]” HRS § 46-1.5(17). The City and County of Honolulu exercised that power and established the office of the prosecuting attorney. The prosecutor’s office has the power to “[a]ttend all courts in the city and conduct, on behalf of the people, all prosecutions therein for offenses against the laws of the state and ordinances and rules and regulations of the city[.]” Rev. Charter of the City and County of Honolulu § 8-104.


Bail-Bond Forfeiture Proceedings are part of the Criminal Case. The ICA rejected Exodus’ argument that the bail bond proceedings were civil in nature and that the prosecutor’s office could not represent the State. The ICA noted that HRS § 804-5 establishes forfeiture proceedings in a “criminal cause.” Moreover, the legislative history of the provision strongly suggested to the ICA that the prosecutor’s office has a place in bail bond forfeiture proceedings. And so the ICA affirmed the order denying Exodus’ motion to set aside the bail forfeiture judgment.

1 comment:

Mary LNU said...

Hopefully this decision will prod the prosecutor's office to do its job. Given the singular lack of enthusiasm it's displayed in representing the State's interest at the trial level--by failing to brief the issues and cite precedent or any other meaningful objection during argument--a few judges have been misled to believe they have jurisdiction to set aside forfeiture judgments via stale motions (those brought later than 30 days after entry of an order denying Motion To Set Aside Judgment of Forfeiture). All ICA decisions since 1996 have been clear and consistent: bail agencies get a single bite of the apple. See, e.g. State v. Ranger, 83 Hawai'i 118, 124 n. 5, 925 P.2d 288, 294 n.5 (1996):
HRS Sec. 804-51 permits the filing neither of a second motion seeking to show "good
cause why execution should not issue" nor any motion after the closing of the thirty-
day window. The Surety's sole recourse from the "appealable event"--the...entry of
the circuit court's order denying stay of execution--was by way of an appeal to this
court.
See also, State v. Liupaono, No. 30064 at 4 (Haw.App 2010):
Ace Bail bonds did not have hte right to file a motion to "reconsider" an order
denying a motion to set aside a bail forfeiture judgment... Therefore, the...order
denying Appellant Ace Bail Bonds's motion to reconsider denial of motion to set aside
bail forfeiture has not been shown to be an appealable order under HRS Sec. 804-51.
See also, State v. Miles, at 13 n. 3 (Haw.App. 2015):
The [original] motion was the only timely motion filed by Exodus under HRS Sec. 804-
51. Exodus's [original] motion was filed more than thirty days after Exodus received
notice of the Bail Forfeiture Judgment on ..., and thus the circuit court "was
without power to consider" the untimely motion given the requirements of HRS Sec.
805-51.
See also, State v. Mattos, summary disposition (2012)-for information only:
HRS Sec. 804-41 does not permit the filing of a second motion, however nominated,
after the closing of the thirty-day window. Ranger. Therefore, the Circuit Court
did not abuse its discretion by denying Exodus's Motion to Reconsider Denial of
Moiton [sic] to Set-Aside Bail Forfeiture [.]
See also, State v. Villanueva, summary disposition (2012)-for information only:
[O]ver eighteen months after Ace had received notice of the Bail Forfeiture Judgment,
Ace filed a "Motion to Reconsider Denial of Motion to Set Aside Bail Forfeiture".
* * *
Given the record in this case, Ace did not file a notice of appeal from the
"appealable event."
* * *
[T]he appealable event is the order denying the motion to set aside the judgment of
forfeiture." State v. Camara, 81 Hawai'i 324, 329 (1996).
* * *
[B]ecause the Motion to Vacate was not filed within the time limit required by HRS
Sec. 804-51, "the circuit court was therefore without power to consider it."
[Citation omitted.]

Allowing a circuit judge to enter an ultra vires order when s/he's been divested of jurisdiction to even entertain a second motion serves no one. Adding insult to injury, the State then refuses to revisit the issue--to provide the judge with necessary briefing to set aside the errant order and reinstate the original forfeiture. Sloppy. Incredibly sloppy.