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What happens if I miss my court date?

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Q:

What happens if I miss my court date?

A:

It is considered a very serious offense if you do not appear in court when you are scheduled to do so. Depending on the type of case, whether civil or criminal, different consequences can take place if you fail to appear.

In a civil case, the court will act as follows: if you are the person suing (plaintiff), and do not appear in court, then the case will be dismissed in favor of the defendant. On the other hand, if you are the defendant, then the court will rule in favor of the plaintiff. After either of these rulings, the case will then be considered to be over by the court, which will then have no further interest in the matter.

However, if the case is a criminal matter, then your failure to appear can result in a different scenario as compared to that in a civil case.

Non-Felony Criminal Cases: Failure to Appear

Non-felony cases are generally classified as offenses that will not require someone to serve more than three years in jail if convicted and sentenced to jail time. This type of offense usually includes things like excessive speeding, reckless driving, DUI, shoplifting, vandalism and crimes of a similar nature. Some jurisdictions may have different requirements and standards for non-felony cases.

If you fail to appear in court when scheduled for a hearing concerning one of these offenses, then the judge will issue a bench warrant against you. A bench warrant is a warrant that states that a crime has been committed, and that commands any law enforcement official to immediately arrest you on sight and bring you before the court.

Felony Criminal Cases: Failure to Appear

If you are facing felony charges and you fail to appear in court, then there are several things that can happen. First of all, the court can issue an arrest warrant. Similar to a bench warrant, an arrest warrant mainly differs from the latter because it proactively commands law enforcement officers to search and arrest you, and bring you before the court.

At the same time, the court will revoke your bond and will require you to either pay a much higher bond to get you out of jail again before your trial, or deny you the option of posting bail altogether. Additionally, your bail bond company can also issue a bounty hunter to track you down so that you can appear before the court.

Another tool of the court is to have your driver’s license suspended when you fail to appear. This suspension of your license guarantees that you will be arrested at some point if you operate a vehicle or need to present your identification to the police for any matter.

The last tool that the court may use to compel your appearance is to exercise its contempt powers, which give it the right to issue additional penalties and jail time for this offense.

If You Have Missed Your Court Appearance

If you have missed your court appearance, the first thing that you should do is find a criminal defense attorney. A defense attorney will know exactly what to do in this situation based on the laws of your state. Your attorney will protect your rights and can also try the following:

  • Have the court issue an authorization allowing you to appear for an arraignment instead of being arrested in front of friends and family.
  • Convince the court to hold a hearing about an issued bench warrant, and try to stave off an arrest altogether.
  • Ask the court for permission to allow you to turn yourself in to the jail for processing, instead of being arrested on the street.
Based on the information of your case, your attorney should know exactly which steps to take in order to address your situation.

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