In the judicial system, the bail commissioner is responsible for all tasks related to bail and the appearance of the defendant in court. He sends letters to defendants, known as bail commissioner letters, essentially calling a defendant back to court. They are only one step in the court process, but are useful in making the courts more efficient.
A bail commissioner letter is a formal notice sent by a bail commissioner to a defendant. The bail commissioner letter indicates that the defendant needs to appear in court or risk legal consequences.
A bail commissioner letter acknowledges that a defendant has missed a court appearance. The letter indicates that the defendant still has a legal obligation to appear before a judge or jury. In this way, the bail commissioner letter is a formal summons. It is intended to limit the number of re-arrests police officers must make.
As Amanda Norris of The Hour reports, there may be stiff penalties for ignoring a bail commissioner letter. If a person doesn't appear in court after getting the bail commissioner letter, the court issues a formal arrest warrant, meaning that the defendant will be apprehended for a second time by local authorities. This second arrest will appear on the individual's criminal history. Once the authorities arrest the defendant, the courts may dish out penalties that may be more serious than the original charge.
Even though the courts allow penalties for ignoring bail commissioner letters, the bail commissioner's letter does not necessarily guarantee that a judge will administer those penalties. If the defendant can show a reasonable explanation for why he ignored the bail commissioner letter (for example, the defendant was in the hospital and didn't receive the letter), then the judge may decide that no penalty is necessary as long as the defendant demonstrates a clear willingness to cooperate with the court. Usually a defendant needs the help of an attorney to make such proofs, however.
If a person receives a bail commissioner letter, the best thing she can do is to contact the court right away and to acknowledge that she got the letter. This way, the court knows that she intends to fulfill her legal obligations and can work with her (and her attorney, if applicable) to make sure that she has a court time that she can make. Contacting the courts for this purpose helps a defendant to appear in a better light in front of the judge.