Greg Chonillo of Greg Chonillo, P.A., Miami, for Appellants.
Anthony P. Pires, Jr., of Woodward, Pires & Lombardo, P.A., Naples, for Appellee.
Appellant Singh Bail Bonds, a bail bonding company or bail bondsman (" Singh" ) and as the qualified agent for the surety, coappellant Sun Surety Insurance Co. (" Sun" ), posted a substantial amount in appearance bonds for a defendant who failed to appear. As a result, the trial court ordered the bonds estreated or forfeited and the appellee, Dwight Brock, in his capacity as Clerk of the Court, entered
an amended bond forfeiture judgment for $350,000 that Singh and Sun appeal. Singh and Sun also argue that the trial court erred in denying their motion to set aside the forfeiture. For the reasons set forth below, we deny Singh and Sun's request for relief and affirm the amended bond forfeiture judgment. After an unnecessarily extended period, the payment has finally come due and must now be made.
This forfeiture case arose as a proceeding ancillary to State v. Oscar Zabala,  a criminal prosecution in which the State charged Mr. Zabala, an Argentinean citizen, with fourteen criminal offenses. The court ordered that if Mr. Zabala wished to be released during the pendency of the prosecution, he must post appearance bonds of $50,000 per count and surrender his passport to the clerk of court or to the sheriff. Singh, holding the required power of attorney from Sun, posted $350,000 worth of bonds, but Mr. Zabala never surrendered his passport. After Mr. Zabala's motion to suppress was denied, he did not present himself for the next court hearing and has not been seen or heard from since. Based on Mr. Zabala's failure to appear as required, the trial court declared the bonds forfeited. Clerk Brock timely gave to Singh and Sun the statutorily required notice of bond forfeiture on October 29, 2009. See § 903.26(2)(a), Fla. Stat. (2009). Singh and Sun then timely filed a motion to set aside the forfeiture. See § 903.27(5) (allowing the surety or the bail bond agent thirty-five days to seek relief from the forfeiture). Section 903.26(2)(a) also requires that the forfeiture be paid within sixty days from the date the notice was mailed. Clerk Brock did not receive the $350,000 from either Singh or Sun within the sixty days, so he entered a bond forfeiture judgment against them, erroneously listing all fourteen bonds instead of the seven assured by Sun and an amount due of $750,000.
After the hearing was held on Singh and Sun's motion to set aside the forfeiture, but before the trial court rendered its decision on the motion, Clerk Brock filed the amended bond forfeiture judgment which corrected the errors in the Clerk's initial bond forfeiture judgment. When Singh and Sun were informed of the trial court's decision to deny their motion to set aside the forfeiture, they timely filed a notice of appeal from Clerk Brock's amended bond forfeiture judgment.
Based on the following language of section 903.27(1), the amended bond forfeiture judgment, entered under Clerk Brock's authority as Clerk of the Court, is a final appealable order:
If the forfeiture is not paid or discharged by order of a court of competent jurisdiction within 60 days ..., the clerk of the circuit court for the county where the order was made shall enter a judgment against the surety for the amount of the penalty and issue execution.
(Emphasis added.) Cf. Al Estes Bonding Co. v. Pinellas Cnty. Bd. of Cnty. Comm'rs,845 So.2d 254, 256 (Fla. 2d DCA 2003) (holding that review of the trial court's denial of the bail bondsman's motion to set aside the forfeiture would be by certiorari and would allow the ...