Is Missing a Misdemeanor Court Date Serious?

Is Missing a Misdemeanor Court Date Serious?
Categorized: Criminal Defense

Missing your court date is a very serious offense that the court does not take lightly. If you were not present at court, there may very well be a capias, or as commonly known, a bench warrant for your arrest. Typically, the court is inclined to issue a bench warrant for failure to appear (FTA) on a misdemeanor charge. Some examples of charges that are considered to be misdemeanors include DUI, driving on a suspended license, reckless driving, shoplifting, or other various misdemeanor charges.

Should I Turn Myself In?

If a bench warrant is issued, the police have the legal authority to find you and take you to jail. You need to consult an attorney regarding turning yourself in. In some circumstances, a judge may allow you to have a bond if you turn yourself in. After turning yourself in, the judge will typically set a new court date for the original charge.

You should also be made aware of the fact that some judges are of the mindset to send people to jail for not showing up to court. If you can prove that you had a valid reason for missing court, you may have a less severe penalty imposed on you. The judge assigned to your case has a great deal of freedom in these types of situations.

What are the Penalties for Failure to Appear?

You should keep in mind that failing to show up for a court date is considered to be a crime classified as a Class 1 misdemeanor FTA. If you fail to appear on a misdemeanor charge in Virginia, the judge may decide to give you a break and dismiss the charge altogether. However, you could potentially be fined up to $1,000 and/or face the possibility of up to one year in jail.

Because this is considered to be a crime with the potential to have a bench warrant issued for your arrest, both it and the failure to appear charges will show up on your background check.

How Can an Attorney Help Me if I Fail to Appear in Court?

If you fail to make your court date, you will need the assistance of an experienced attorney who can act as an advocate for you by filing a Motion to Vacate the Bench Warrant for Failure to Appear. This motion is filed by the clerk, and it is a request to remove the bench warrant from the record. If the judge grants the motion, the warrant will be rescinded and a new court date set.

The Motion can be filed and then heard within a couple of days after you hire an attorney. It is in your best interest to file this motion as soon as possible. It can help demonstrate that you are making a diligent effort to correct your mistake. It is not advisable to wait months after failing to appear at your court date to file this motion.

If you have missed court, you need to speak with one of our criminal defense lawyers as soon as possible. You definitely do not want the police to come and find you first, as you will be arrested and thrown in jail. Contact us and schedule an appointment to speak with an attorney who can assist you with your case.

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