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What Do I Do If I Miss My Court Date?

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

What Do I Do If I Miss My Court Date?

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Failure to Appear in Court

If you have been mandated to go to court for whatever reason, it is essential that you stay on top of the date you are supposed to go. If you miss your court date, the judge will most likely issue a bench warrant for your arrest. This is true even for something seemingly simple, like a traffic ticket. Now, in most cases, if you missed your court date and your violation was minor, you will probably not be actively pursued by the police. However, you will still have a warrant out for your arrest and if you are, say, pulled over for speeding, the warrant will be there – and you could end up in jail.

If you think you might have to miss your court date, call and reschedule it. Be proactive. A court date can usually be rearranged but a missed date is usually trouble.


Bench Warrants

Bench warrants are issued for failure to appear, violating probation, failure to comply with a court order, like paying a fine, failure to complete community service or pay child support or some other issue. If you are picked up on a warrant, you could be kept in jail until you are seen in court or until other fees are paid.

Arrest Warrants

Arrest warrants are issued if there is enough evidence to prove that you have, likely, committed a crime. An officer or detective can request that the warrant be issued and you can be held in jail until your arraignment or a similar proceeding.

Jail Sentence and Fines

A jail sentence can also be imposed by a judge if you miss your court date and are found guilty of failure to appear or contempt of court. Fines can also be imposed for everything from administrative fees to a Failure to Appear fine.

Driver’s License Suspension

In some states, if you fail to appear in court, your driver’s license can be suspended. This puts you in a predicament particularly if you are pulled over. You’ll be arrested not just for missing the date, but for driving with a suspended license. If your license is suspended, there will be fees to have it reinstated and you may have to pay additional fees with your insurance company.

What To Do if You Miss Your Court Date

Mistakes happen. Sometimes we write down the wrong date or put the wrong date into our phone. Sometimes we think we’ll remember and we don’t. Perhaps you got into an accident, or your child was home sick from school. Maybe you just forgot. If you realize that you missed your court date, the first thing you should do is call the court clerk. You are not the first person to have this happen.

If you contact the court within days of the violation, and depending on the state, the clerk may be able to reset the date without a penalty. If the Failure to Appear is an old one, however, the clerk will need to contact the District Attorney and you will need to proceed from there.

Sometimes, especially for a minor infraction like a traffic ticket, you can stop a bench warrant from being issued. Some courts have an “add-on” court and you can show up later in the day or the next day. The court clerk will know just what you have to do to prevent being arrested. A simple form to ask for a new date is sometimes needed and they can let you know if it was approved.

If a warrant is issued and you can’t stop it, contact an attorney right away. An attorney may also be able to arrange for you to go to the police station instead of being picked up. You may be jailed. You may need to post a bond. You may not. An attorney can help you sort through this process.

Under a Bond?

If you are already under a bond, or under probation for another issue, you will have more trouble if you miss a court date. Any motion to set aside the Failure to Appear will likely, depending on your state, require the attention of both the District Attorney and the Judge. Be sure to engage an attorney in this case, because you will need someone who understands what is going to happen on your side.

Don’t Do it Again

A court date is serious business and it doesn’t matter if it’s for a traffic ticket or a felony. You must show up. It is the only thing you need to do on that day. If you miss it, even if you have a good excuse, you are not going to be looked on favorably by the judge. No one to watch the kids? Take them with you. This will show your commitment to the process. No car? Take the bus. Be early. If you missed one date and are able to have an attorney help you arrange things, don’t do it again. If you ever have another court date, you better be able to show the judge that you’re serious.

If you have any questions, always consult an attorney first. They can give you more specifics depending on your state’s laws and your personal situation. A qualified, experienced attorney can help you navigate the court system and make sure that you are receiving the best treatment available in your situation.

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