Not showing up to court for a criminal proceeding may seem like a minor oversight, but North Carolina law takes “failure to appear” seriously. If you don’t appear in court or have a designated attorney do so for you, even for a minor traffic violation, you could be facing arrest among other sanctions. Whether you need an attorney to appear for you in court, or you’ve already been cited or had an arrest order issued against you, the skilled criminal defense team at Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, is ready to help.
Reasons Why Failures To Appear Happen
Criminal courts are busy, and judges expect defendants to be in court on their designated dates. Yet there are numerous reasons defendants don’t show up:
- There was an emergency
- The defendant never received a mailed notice
- The defendant forgot the court date
- The defendant was sick or hospitalized
- The defendant appeared in the wrong courtroom or courthouse
- The defendant panicked and fled
- Clerical errors
Some reasons are more legitimate than others, but in many events, the missed court date was perfectly innocent. The important thing is to be upfront with your criminal defense attorney about what happened. If you have documentation of what exactly kept you from going to court, then you need to share it with your attorney. But whatever the reason, remember, your attorney is obligated to keep communications with you confidential. Being honest is the best way to take action before the situation gets worse.
What Happens If I Miss A Court Date?
If you don’t appear on your court date, the judge will mark your case with “FTA” (Failure to Appear). Depending upon how serious the underlying criminal offense is, the judge may issue an order for arrest (OFA). This allows law enforcement to come to your house or place of business to find and arrest you. If you’re pulled over or stopped by a police officer, a quick run of your identification will flag you for arrest. Even if an OFA isn’t issued, the FTA does carry a $200 fine in addition to whatever criminal fines you may be facing in your underlying case.
If your court date was for a traffic offense, your license will be revoked. That means you’ll face a misdemeanor charge for driving while license revoked, which could result in a substantial penalty and time in jail. The DMV will not restore your license until the FTA is cleared up.
Some defendants who are arrested for felonies are released pending their court date. When they miss that court date, they are charged with a felony (not misdemeanor) failure to appear. These are far more serious than a misdemeanor failure to appear and could result in months in prison even for a first-time offender.
There are some cases in which the defendant doesn’t have to appear personally for a court date but still needs an attorney to do so on their behalf. This is especially true in traffic court. But don’t assume that just because you don’t personally have to be there that you can disregard hiring an attorney. An FTA and OFA can still be entered against you if you miss your traffic court date.
You may have paid bail or had bond paid on your behalf, to be released from jail on a promise to show up for court later. If you fail to appear, you forfeit your bond or bail and will have a warrant issued for your arrest.
I’ve Missed A Court Date; What Are My Options?
The first thing you need to do after missing a court date, even for a minor traffic offense, is to contact a skilled criminal defense attorney. FTAs and OFAs are best handled sooner rather than later to avoid the most serious penalties. Let your attorney know exactly what happened, and provide as much documentation as you can to prove it. If you attempted to reach out to notify the court about your inability to appear, try to document this as well.
Depending on the circumstances, your lawyer may be able to have the FTA and OFA stricken, along with the fine. Your attorney can also get to work rescheduling your court date so you can handle the underlying charge.
I’ve Been Arrested For A Failure To Appear; Now What?
You may have already been arrested after missing your court date, and this can certainly make things more challenging. If nothing else, the sheer amount of time it takes from missing your court date to your arrest is something judges don’t easily overlook. From their perspective, you should have figured out pretty quickly that you failed to appear and then taken action to correct it.
The good news is, an experienced criminal defense attorney can still help. It is still important that your attorney understands the reason you missed your court date. Your criminal record, including whether you’ve had prior FTAs or OFAs, may be relevant here, and your attorney can examine that too. If you’ve been arrested, ask to speak with a lawyer. Then, reach out to Hancock Law Firm, PLLC.
Avoiding A Failure To Appear Charge
It would be better to not have to face an FTA charge, to begin with. If you have an upcoming criminal court date, we can represent you. Many traffic offenses do not require the defendant to be present, so an attorney can show up instead. Don’t make your situation worse by ignoring your court date. Hire a dedicated criminal defense lawyer.
Contact Our Carteret County Failure To Appear Attorney
The criminal justice system can be intimidating, and an FTA and OFA only add to the stress. Fortunately, there are ways to handle missed court dates and explain why the failure to appear happened. It starts with hiring the right attorney to fight for you. Get in touch with Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, today and start exploring your legal options.