A bail bondsman has been freed from an order to pay up on a $20,000 bond he posted several years ago after the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed upon finding the bond had expired and was no longer forfeitable.
In 2015, Timothy O’Connor posted a $20,000 recognizance surety bond on behalf of Umesh Kaushal, leaving Kaushal free to go pending a trial for his charge of Level 4 felony child molesting. Five years passed while prosecution in Kaushal’s case languished, during which Kaushal pleading guilty, withdrew that plea, pleaded guilty again, unsuccessfully sought to withdraw from that plea and then appealed that denial twice. After that appeal proved unsuccessful, Kaushal failed to appear for a scheduled court hearing in December 2019.
The Marion Superior Court subsequently ordered O’Connor and the surety to surrender Kaushal or prove within 120 days that Kaushal’s absence was due to his illness or death, that he was in government custody or that notice was deficient.
Almost one year later, O’Connor filed a petition to release surety, arguing that the bond had expired under Indiana law three years after it was posted for Kaushal and prior to his final failure to appear. Regardless, the bond was ordered forfeited and O’Connor was billed for the bond, despite his claims that he couldn’t produce Kaushal because Kaushal was living in India with a lapsed U.S. visa.
In reversing that decision, the Indiana Court of Appeals on Friday concluded that the $20,000 bond had indeed expired years prior. The COA found that although the trial court initiated bond forfeiture proceedings in December 2019, it did not order the bond forfeited until January 2021. As such, it concluded O’Connor timely raised his bond expiration defense in December 2020.
“In light of these circumstances, the language at issue in Kaushal’s bond — ‘from day to day and from term to term thereof . . . until such cause is determined’ — cannot be construed reasonably as an agreement to extend the bond beyond the 36-month statutory expiration date,” Judge Leanna Weissmann wrote for the appellate court.
“By law, Kaushal’s bond expired on August 9, 2018, which was 36 months after it was posted. Consequently, the forfeiture proceedings initiated on December 27, 2019, were invalid because by that time there was no bond left to forfeit,” Weissmann concluded in Timothy O’Connor v. State of Indiana, 21A-CR-220.