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Johnson v. Kittitas County,

            This case was appealed from the Kittitas County Superior Court.  Mr. Johnson was asserting that RCW 10.19.160 gave him discretion to surrender a defendant for any reason he was insecure. The Superior Court decided the statute did not permit Mr. Johnson the discretion to surrender a principal to the Kittitas County Corrections Center (KCCC) whenever he believed himself insecure. The Court of Appeals for Division 3 rejected this argument.  RCW 10.19.160 states:

The surety on the bond may return to custody a person in a criminal case under the surety’s bond if the surrender is accompanied by a notice of forfeiture or a notarized affidavit specifying the reasons for the surrender. The surrender shall be made to the facility in which the person was originally held in custody or the county or city jail affiliated with the court issuing the warrant resulting in bail.

The Court of Appeals held:

In sum, we conclude that the first sentence of RCW 10.19.160 is unambiguous. The provision means what it says; the bail bondsman can effectuate surrender with either notice of forfeiture or an affidavit stating the reasons compelling the bondsman to surrender his principal.

The first sentence of RCW 10.19.160 plainly states a “notice of forfeiture or notarized affidavit specifying the reasons for the surrender” must accompany the client’s surrender. Although nothing in the statute defines “notice of forfeiture” or “reasons for the surrender,” the meanings are clear. The “notice of forfeiture” refers to the notice required under RCW 10.19.090 that is given to a surety by the court as part of the forfeiture proceedings occurring when a principal fails to appear. Under RCW 10.19.090 the court must notify the surety in writing within 30 days of the FTA or else the judgment of forfeiture is null and void. In re Marriage of Bralley70 Wn. App. 646, 651855 P.2d 1174 (1993) (no bond forfeiture unless surety notified within 30 days of client’s failure to appear).

            Even though unlimited, the term “reasons” used in the context of the entire sentence is not ambiguous. It means a recitation of facts in the form of an affidavit given by the surety to support surrender. While we agree that failure to appear, forfeiture, or bench warrant are reasons that may reasonably support a surety’s surrender decision, we contemplate others. For example, the surety may become insecure upon receiving information that a principal intends flight. Practically speaking, persons surrendered immediately go before a judge pursuant to CrR 3.2(a) to review and reconsider release conditions. RCW 10.19.090; .100; .105. Bail conditions may be continued, modified, or revoked by the court. And the jail or detention facility receiving a surrendered principal acts ministerially, not with discretion. Although bail may be possible under approved bail schedules, ultimately it is the court that sets release conditions. RCW 10.19.040.

The Second Issue was where the defendant could be surrendered. Which Jail? It should be noted that RCW 10.19.160 has been amended since the decision and the court’s analysis is no longer on point on this issue.

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