Failure to Appear

Did you know that it is illegal to miss any type of court proceeding? Indeed, if you don’t show up for a scheduled court date, you may be charged with failure to appear in court. As a criminal offense, the penalties associated with this charge can be quite severe, including fines, license suspension, and even jail time—in other words, your court date is one appointment you don’t want to miss!

So just what happens if you do miss your day in court? In most areas, skipping a criminal proceeding (such as a traffic or DUI hearing, for example) will lead a judge to issue a bench warrant against you. Once this happens, you can be arrested immediately if you are spotted by a member of law enforcement.

If you think failing to appear for jury duty or a civil hearing is less serious than missing a criminal hearing, think again. Under federal law, all U.S. citizens over the age of 18 must fulfill their jury duty requirements if they are summoned by any court jurisdiction in their area. Therefore, if you are unable to make it to jury duty, you must provide a valid reason for your absence—and it must be approved by the court. Otherwise, you could be charged with failure to appear and/or contempt of court.

The penalties for missing a civil case depend on whether you are the person who filed the charges (also known as the plaintiff) or the person who has been charged (the defendant). If a plaintiff fails to appear for his or her civil trial, the case will most likely be dismissed, while a bench warrant may be issued if the defendant doesn’t appear.

What’s more, because failure to appear for a court date is a crime in and of itself, the court may find you guilty of the offense—even if your original charges are dismissed or you are found not guilty. As a result, it is important have legal counsel if you were recently charged with failure to appear in court.

During your search for representation, be on the lookout for reputable criminal defense attorneys who are familiar with the laws in your area. Read online reviews, ask friends and family members for advice, visit court, and meet with several different attorneys to find the right one for you.

Remember, missing a court date is a serious offense—even if it was unintentional. If a bench warrant has been issued, you not only risk arrest, but you may soon be facing hefty fines and a length license suspension as well. 

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