Missed Court Dates
In the United States if you have a scheduled court date and miss your hearing for any reason, you can be charged with a failure to appear. This means that you will have a secondary charge on your file in addition to the original case you were supposed to appear in court for. It's illegal to miss any type of court proceeding.
Failing to appear may be considered a criminal offense in and of itself. For that reason, it's never a good idea to skip a court date. Contempt of court can result in both fines and jail time. If you have to appear in court mark it on your calendar and be sure to show up on time to avoid further penalties. If you fail to appear for a mandated court date, whether for a civil or criminal court case, the judge has the authority to issue a bench warrant in your name.


What is a Bench Warrant?
A bench warrant is a type of arrest warrant usually issued when an individual has missed a court date and authorizes the immediate arrest of that person. There are many reasons people fail to appear for a court date; to escape the consequences of being found guilty, to avoid court fees, they don't have a lawyer, they aren't able to get a baby sitter, they forgot, or simply for the reason they are too busy. The reason for missing a court date does not matter even if it was unintentional. Failure to appear is a crime in itself. Once you have failed to appear in court you most likely will end up with a bench warrant in your name.

The purpose of a bench warrant is to allow law enforcement the ability to take a person into custody so they can answer for the missed court date along with the original charges against them. The court has the right to take various actions against you when you miss a court date depending on the circumstances and severity of the crime. You can expect fines if you are found guilty of failure to appear and in certain cases jail time may be required. In some states, your drivers license may be suspended until you appear in front of a judge to address the failure to appear charges.

If the court did not require you to post a bond and you failed to appear for you court hearing, the judge can order a bond revocation or change in conditions of release. A judge might impose a bond requiring that you pay money to the court in order to be released while your case is pending. If you posted bond, your bond could increase as punishment for missing your court date and to ensure you don't skip another court appearance. The harshest penalty could be that the judge requires you stay in jail until your case is determined.


What's the Difference Between a Bench Warrant and an Arrest Warrant?
Arrest warrants and bench warrants essentially yield the same results which is the apprehension of an individual to appear in court and answer for their crimes.

Arrest warrants are issued in cases where an individual is suspected of committing a criminal act against a person or society. Whereas bench warrants are served to individuals who fail to appear for a hearing and commit an offense against the court. A bench warrant can be issued for civil and criminal cases where as an arrest warrant is only relegated to criminal cases.


What Should You Do If You Can't Make a Court Appearance
If you know in advance you have a conflict with a scheduled court hearing, you need to let the court know and try to make other arrangements. The best thing to do is let your criminal defense lawyer handle any rescheduling, so the proper measures can be taken with the judge to get another court date. If you have a valid reason for needing to reschedule the court will likely cooperate and grant you a different court date.

The penalties for missing a civil case depend on whether you are the person who filed the charges (plaintiff) or the person who has been charged (defendant). If a plaintiff fails to appear in court, the case will most likely be dismissed since the person who filed the charges didn't show. If the defendant doesn't appear a bench warrant may be issued in their name. Note, it's possible to be found guilty of failure to appear even if your original charges were dismissed or you were found not guilty.



Consult an Attorney for Any Missed Court Dates
If you missed a court appearance or have been issued a bench warrant in your name, consulting with an attorney is crucial. A criminal lawyer can help you resolve the issue legally, will know how to handle an arrest warrant, is knowledgeable regarding the laws in your state for failure to appear, and can advise you how to proceed for the best outcome. A lawyer can represent you in court and deal with the judge on your behalf to work out alternative options such as:

Arraignment - A lawyer can file for an arraignment so you can appear in court rather than deal with being arrested.

Scheduled Hearing - The court might be willing to schedule a hearing with your lawyer to resolve a bench warrant before an arrest occurs.

Booking Options - An attorney may be able to organize for you to turn yourself in at your convenience rather than be arrested by police at random.


Bail Imposed and/or Forfeited
If a person missed a court date while on bail, the court usually forfeits the bail money and may set a higher bail amount to be paid when the suspect is rearrested. If a person has a bench warrant against them and is arrested, law enforcement will place the individual in jail and set a hearing date. The hearing usually results in the court setting a new bail amount, new bail conditions, and a new court date appearance. The person could also be held in jail without bail. This is because if a person is arrested on a bench warrant, the court declares them a flight risk and orders that person to be held without bail until further notice. If you were released following your arrest without having to post bail or secure a bond, failure to appear can lead to the imposition of bail in addition to many other penalties.

In conclusion, when charged with a crime, there can be heavy penalties for failure to appear for scheduled court hearings. If a person faces criminal charges, upon arrest and prior to release, a number of mandatory court dates will be set. A failure to appear will result in a bench warrant for arrest in your name. The defendant may be required to post bail or be denied release from prison until their trial has ended. In most other cases, however, a failure to appear in criminal court as required will result in significant penalties.
Failure to Appear for a Court Date
Child Support Warrant?  Traffic Citation?
Missed Court Date?  DUI Charges?  Bench Warrant for Arrest?
Traffic Tickets and Missed Court Dates
Many people are surprised to find out they can get a failure to appear for not going to court for a traffic ticket since it's not a hefty crime. But, if you miss an appearance in traffic court it's a violation of the written promise to show up in court on a given day at a specific time. You can be penalized for a failure to appear even if you were found not guilty of the citation or if the case is dismissed.

In some jurisdictions failure to appear may be considered a misdemeanor offense. In order to clear a failure to appear record a person must pay the original amount for the citation plus the penalty fees for the original missed court date.
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