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What Happens if You Fail to Appear in Court

Failing to appear in court bears serious consequences. Whether you are charged with a crime or even issued a traffic ticket, you might be called to appear. There are several reasons why a judge might need your presence during a criminal case, and these include for example trial, hearing, sentencing, etc.

If you don’t appear, the consequences can be severe, where you might end up facing criminal charges. In order to learn more about this topic, I asked the attorneys at Monder Law for more info. Here’s what I learned.

Warrant for Arrest

The judge has the power to issue a warrant for arrest if you choose not to appear at a designated time. This warrant won’t go away, and remains in the system until further changes. Any potential contact with the law enforcement might show that there’s a warrant issued for your arrest and the officer has the authority to take you into custody right then and there.

If you don’t appear for a more serious criminal charge, the police might seek you out at your home or work place and arrest you. When or if that happens you will probably stay in custody until a new hearing where you need to explain why you failed to appear.

Fines and Jail time

If you are found guilty at the hearing of your failure to appear, most likely, the judge will issue a jail sentence or a fine, depending on the severity of the crime. Once the routine was to send those who fail to appear, for even low-level charges, to jail. This usually happened without the presence of the defendant’s lawyer which was deemed unnecessary. This ordeal changed in 2017.

Driver’s Licence Suspension

The practice in some states is to suspend your driver’s license if you fail to appear in court. The only way to abolish the suspension is to eventually appear at court and explain why you didn’t show up.

Difficulties With Posting a Bond

If the original order did not require you to post a bond for release, if you fail to appear, the judge can alter the decision and post a bond, meaning that you would have to pay to be released from custody until the conclusion of your case.

Even if you posted a bond, the judge can increase the amount, or even decide to keep you in custody either way. As you can see, failing to appear in court is serious, and in no way can you improve your situation by avoiding court orders.

Building Your Defense

If you want to avoid facing any of the aforementioned consequences the court must deem your failure to appear justified.

A notice to appear is sent to your lawyer, or to you personally for a traffic case. If you change your address, it is in no way a good excuse for your failure to appear, and you might still face additional charges. You are obliged to inform the court about the change of your current place of residence.

Sometimes there are elements that affect our lives we can’t control. Like accidents, disasters or illnesses. If this is why you failed to appear, then your defense can be built around that.

Failure to appear as a witness is also a felony. Similar rules can apply even though you are not the defendant in the case. The judge can issue a bench warrant for your arrest.

Whatever the reason might be. If you don’t appear when ordered, you should immediately consult your lawyer to start building your defense. By no means should you face this alone.

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Karen LeBlanc

Karen LeBlanc is a travel host and writer with a popular travel show, The Design Tourist, and a companion lifestyle blog. As a widely published travel journalist and content creator, Karen is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association. She also serves as the Design and Travel editor of the national lifestyle magazine, LaPalme. Karen believes that every destination has a story to tell through its local art, architecture, culture, and craft. This immersive creative exploration begins with authentic accommodations where the narrative of place unfolds through art, accessories, accouterments, furnishings, fixtures, and food. 

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