The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in United States v. Miller, held that the liability of a surety on a federal bail-bond contract depends on the wording of the contract as interpreted under general federal common-law principles of suretyship and contract law.
Resolute Insurance Company was surety for Thomas Miller on two identical appearance bonds. Miller was found guilty of assaulting an FBI agent, had pleaded guilty to interstate transportation of stolen goods, and was sentenced to a total of three years and three months of imprisonment. The trial court, at Miller's request and in the absence of any agent of Resolute, allowed a brief stay of incarceration, and one of the bonds was specifically continued. Miller then fled the jurisdiction of the court in violation of the bonds. The government moved to forfeit the bonds, and final judgment of forfeiture was entered by the federal district court. Resolute, claiming it was exonerated from liability once sentence had been passed, appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Wingfield, William T. Jr.
"Federal Common Law, Not State Law, Controls Interpretation of Federal Bail-Bond Contracts,"
Mercer Law Review: Vol. 28:
4, Article 12.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.mercer.edu/jour_mlr/vol28/iss4/12