On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Warren County, Indictment No. 09-12-0439.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Lihotz and St. John.
First Indemnity of America Insurance Company (First Indemnity) appeals from an order dated January 14, 2011, which granted in part, but denied in part, its motion for remission of the forfeiture of the bail posted for defendant, Joel Burger.
On appeal, First Indemnity argues that the trial court erred in applying the guidelines issued by the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) for remission of forfeited bail, which it argues required a higher percentage of remission than what the trial court ordered. We are not persuaded by First Indemnity's arguments. Accordingly, we affirm.
The facts are not in dispute. First Indemnity, a commercial surety, posted bond for Burger on December 17, 2009, at the Warren County Superior Court in the amount of $20,000. Burger was required to check in with the posting agent on a weekly basis, and attend all court appearances in accordance with the conditions of his release. Burger appeared in court on January 15, February 19, and May 6, 2010. On June 4, 2010, First Indemnity called Burger to inform him that he must check in with them. However, the telephone number Burger had provided was disconnected. The indemnitor on the bond, Burger's brother, informed First Indemnity that Burger was not living at the address First Indemnity had on file.
On June 21, Burger contacted First Indemnity's agent and informed it that he was living with his brother in Pennsylvania. Burger failed to appear in court on July 8, 2010, and the bond was forfeited.
On July 14, First Indemnity received notice of the forfeiture and assigned the case to its Fugitive Recovery Team three days later. First Indemnity contacted the indemnitor to ascertain Burger's whereabouts, but was unable to determine that information. First Indemnity assigned a private investigator to locate, apprehend, and surrender Burger. On July 27, the Fugitive Recovery Team notified the Warren County Criminal Division that Burger had been arrested and incarcerated in Northampton County, Pennsylvania on a parole violation. The Criminal Division was advised that a detainer had been lodged against Burger. On October 27, 2010, Burger was sentenced in Northampton County to incarceration at Pennsylvania State prison. As of January 11, 2011, Burger had yet to appear in Superior Court to answer the charges against him.
On October 1, 2010, the trial judge entered a $20,000 default judgment in favor of the State and Warren County against First Indemnity. Thereafter, First Indemnity moved to stay the execution of the $20,000 judgment against it and to vacate the bail forfeiture and/or judgment.
On January 14, 2011, the trial judge granted First Indemnity's motion in part, ordering that 75% of the $20,000 bail amount be remitted to First Indemnity.
On February 25, 2011, First Indemnity filed a notice of appeal, arguing the trial judge should have applied a different analysis, remitting 95% of the bail because First Indemnity demonstrated it provided close ongoing supervision of Burger while he was released on bail, and made immediate substantial efforts to recapture him after he failed to appear on July 8, 2010.
In a comprehensive written opinion setting forth both the salient facts and the applicable law, Judge John J. Coyle, Jr. denied First Indemnity's application in part. Judge Coyle found that First Indemnity provided minimal supervision while Burger was out on bail, and engaged in substantial efforts, albeit unsuccessful, to recapture him. Accordingly, 75% of the bail was ordered to be remitted to First Indemnity.
Rule 3:26-6 governs the remission of bail forfeitures. The decision to remit a bail forfeiture and the amount of the remission are matters within the sound discretion of the trial judge. See State v. Peace, 63 N.J. 127, 129 (1973); State v. Wilson, 395 N.J. ...