Full forfeiture of a bail bond was warranted where the surety failed to contact the defendant in any manner following his release, the Superior Court ruled in In re Hann, __ A.3d __ (No. 571 MDA 2014, filed March 4, 2015). The surety in this case, Paul Weachter, posted a $100,000 bond for the release of Ricky Lynn Hann following Hann’s arrest for kidnapping and assaulting his girlfriend. The day after his release, Hann murdered his girlfriend and took his own life. The Commonwealth petitioned to forfeit the bail bond pursuant to Pa. R.Crim.P. 536(A)(2)(a) and, following a hearing, the trial court granted forfeiture.
Weachter’s first appeal to the Superior Court was successful; the Court reversed because the Commonwealth failed to establish any legally cognizable financial prejudice caused by Hann’s breach of the bail conditions. On appeal, the Supreme Court reversed and adopted a new multi-factor test for determining whether justice requires full enforcement of a forfeiture order. See Commonwealth v. Hann, 81 A.3d 57 (Pa. 2013). The Supreme Court remanded to the trial court for a new forfeiture hearing. On remand, the trial court held that justice demanded forfeiture of Weachter’s bail bond. The instant appeal followed, and the Superior Court affirmed in a unanimous decision authored by Judge Ott.
The Court first rejected Weachter’s argument that he was unfairly held to a higher standard than the police, the district attorney and the judicial system, all of which failed to further detain Hann, set a higher bail or impose additional restrictions. The panel observed that none of these factors mitigated Weachter’s duty to investigate Hann’s background before issuing the bail bond. The focus of the new multi-factor test is on the actions of the defendant and the surety, who the Court noted is involved in the transaction solely for financial gain. In finding that Weachter was properly held responsible for Hann’s post-bail criminal conduct, the panel cited Weachter’s failure to even contact Hann after his release. The panel also emphasized that in a case such as this involving a serious bail bond breach, full forfeiture is an effective way to deter future misconduct.