Everyone makes mistakes. But, if you don’t show up on your scheduled court date, you could face some serious consequences. This kind of thing happens frequently, and it often occurs on the first court appearance. If this has happened to you and you don’t hire a lawyer (or your lawyer doesn’t tell the court), it’s up to the bondsmen to notify you after the charges have been filed and that you have a scheduled court date. They do this most of the time, but sometimes they don’t.
Not appearing during your scheduled court date will forfeit your bond, which will result in a warrant being issued for your arrest. Once you have been arrested again, you will have to bond again (usually at a much higher amount). The authorities will actively try to arrest you. Uf they’re not able to locate you, the warrant will show up on a records check if you’re stopped for any reason. Failure to appear can also be treated as a separate charge, so the prosecution can choose to file a new charge for failure to appear. If your original charge was a misdemeanor, the new one will be a felony. A bond will also be set on the new charge, which will be high.
In most cases, the failure to appear in court is because of a mistake (or even stupidity). If you have an attorney, most courts will notify this person (who can go to the judge and try to convince this person to withdraw the warrant). This strategy is usually successful, but you better not miss another one.
Consequences for Not Appearing in Court
The consequences for not appearing in court will depend on the surrounding circumstances, but here are some of the common penalties:
- Bench Warrant — Not showing up on your scheduled court date can cause the judge to issue a bench warrant (which is an order being issued for your arrest). It’s a guaranteed way to make sure you show up in court next time. Once the judge has issued a bench warrant, you can be picked up anywhere. If you get stopped for any reason, you’ll be going to jail as soon as they run your information.
- No-Show Penalty — There are some reasons why you didn’t show up in court that can be enough to avoid a penalty. Something as serious as a hospital stay will most likely keep you from being penalized. But, if your situation wasn’t that serious and was a result of irresponsibility on your part, the court can penalize you. The amount of the penalty will be based on the nature of the original charge.
- Jail Sentence and Fines — The judge can impose a fine or even a jail sentence if you’re found guilty of failure to appear, bail jumping, or contempt of court. This can be added to the sentence you can get for your original charge.
If you can avoid getting arrested a second time because of a bench warrant, do it. Otherwise, it will complicate your situation. A failure to appear can make an already bad situation worse, because you could be seen as someone who can’t be trusted (which could lead to a more serious sentence).
Possible Defenses for Failure to Appear
To find out that you have failed to appear, the court must see if you had proper notice and that you didn’t appear on purpose. If the normal procedure is to send a notice by mail, the court is only required to send it to the address that they have listed in the court records or to your attorney. If you’re not being represented by an attorney (such as in a traffic case), you need to make sure that courts have your current address on file. If your address changes and you don’t inform the court, not getting the notice won’t excuse you from a failure to appear.
If there were circumstances beyond your control that kept you from appearing in court (such as a serious illness, an accident, or a natural disaster), it could be a defense against a failure to appear. But, you must present evidence that there was such an emergency that prevented you from making it to court.
If you’re not a defendant in a criminal or traffic case, but are required to make an appearance in court as a witness or for some other purpose, you must comply with this order. If you don’t show up, you’re also at risk of being charged with failure to appear or criminal contempt. The court can even issue a bench warrant for your arrest.
If you’re facing criminal charges and are looking for a criminal defense attorney to help you with your case, be sure to reach out to Gale Law Group.