State of Iowa v. Briggs, 666 N.W.2d 573 (Iowa 2003) considered a constitutional challenge to an Order requiring the defendant to post “cash only” bail. The defendant was first released on a surety bond but failed to appear. The bench warrant specified that bail would have to be in cash. She eventually appeared and filed an application for bond review arguing a constitutional right to a surety bond. The trial court refused to modify the cash only requirement, and the defendant, who was found guilty of the charged offense, appealed the denial of access to a surety bond.
The Iowa Constitution provides that before conviction all persons shall be bailable “by sufficient sureties” except for certain capital offenses. It also forbids “excessive” bail. The majority of the Iowa Supreme Court held that the imposition of a “cash only” bail requirement does not per se violate either clause of the Iowa Constitution. The majority opinion seems to hold that the posting of cash is a form of access to a surety. The three dissenting Justices argued that “A cash-only bond is a per se denial of the constitutional guarantee to bail 'by sufficient sureties.'”
Even the majority opinion acknowledges that appellate courts in Louisiana, Ohio, Minnesota and Tennessee have reached the opposite conclusion under their constitutions, and that if the defendant could show that “the bail determination absolutely bars his or her utilization of a surety of some form, a court is constitutionally bound to accommodate the accused’s predicament.”
In State v. Neville, 2004 WL 1813748 (Iowa August 11, 2004) a judgment forfeting the bond was entered, and the surety did not appeal. Almost a year later, the surety filed a motion for return of surety. The trial court denied the motion and the surety appealed. The Iowa Supreme Court treated the motion for return of surety as a petition to vacate the judgment. Of the six permissible grounds to vacate a judgment, however, the surety could advance only one – that the clerk did not mail the notice of forfeiture as required by law. The trial court held a hearing and found that the surety did receive notice, and the Supreme Court affirms on the ground that there was substantial evidence to support the finding.