What happens if you fail to appear in court for a criminal or traffic charge? You could face further penalties, have a warrant issued for your arrest, or be sentenced in your absence. Read along to find out what to do if you miss a court date and whom to contact.
Common Causes of Missing a Court Date
People give all kinds of reasons for missing their court dates. Here are some of the common ones:
- Family emergency
- Work schedules
- Had the wrong date written down
- Never got the notice of court hearing
- Traffic delays or car problems
Depending on the circumstances, the court might not care why you missed a court date. You could be going into labor at your mother’s funeral, and the court could still issue a warrant for your arrest because you failed to appear.
The best thing to do is to hire an attorney who can be there with you and present a good case on your behalf of why you are not there. As soon as you realize you will be missing the court date, call your attorney and let them petition the court for you.
If you realize that you already missed a court date (like if you thought it was today, but it was yesterday), call an attorney immediately to find out what your next steps are. Cook Attorneys will know what to do. We may be able to simply reschedule the hearing or you may need to turn yourself in on a “failure to appear” charge.
What Happens If You Miss a Court Date
If you are scheduled to appear in court, and you are the prosecutor, your fellow-prosecutors can handle the case for you; it just looks bad if you are not there.
If you are supposed to appear as a witness, you will be subpoenaed, and the subpoena will tell you what date to arrive. If you do not arrive, you can be held in contempt of court.
It will also affect the case if you are not there because at least one party believes you hold critical information to sway the court one way or the other.
If you are the defendant, and you do not appear, the judge can issue a “Failed to Appear” (FTA). This is also known as a bench warrant, which means the judge issues a warrant for your arrest from the judge’s bench. Failing to appear is a separate and additional criminal offense.
If you have a failure to appear in court for a simple traffic ticket, it is most likely that you will be found guilty in your absence and will receive a bill in the mail ordering you to pay the fine.
That is what happens if you miss a court date. Let’s turn now to what to do if you miss it.
What to Do if You Miss a Court Date
The first thing you should do when you realize you have missed your court date (or when you realize you will miss it due to traffic or another circumstance beyond your control) is call your attorney. If you do not have an attorney for the charge, get one!
Cook Attorneys can advocate for you with the court, to get your hearing rescheduled or to ask the judge to remove the warrant so that you can show up in court on another date. Cook Attorneys can also direct you on the next steps. Contact us today if you are not sure where to go from here. We can help!
If you choose to call the court without the assistance of an attorney, ask for another date and see if they can accommodate you. If the court has already issued a warrant for your arrest, the clerk will direct you to turn yourself in to the sheriff’s department.
Can You Reschedule a Court Date if You Miss It?
If you know ahead of time that you will not be able to make it to court on the date you have been summoned (subpoenaed), you or your attorney can petition to move the hearing to a different date. Depending on the nature of the charge, the court is usually accommodating for a first request to postpone a case. Subsequent requests may be viewed with suspicion.
However, if you missed the court date altogether, you are at the mercy of the court for rescheduling, and they do not have to grant your request for a rehearing or a second chance.
If you missed your court date, call Cook Attorneys immediately and get us to advocate for you. We have decades of experience in Virginia courts, and we will be happy to help you.