Failure to Appear

When the courts tell you to show up for a court appearance, the best thing you can do is be there and be there on time. However, things come up. Whether you missed your court date because you forgot or because something beyond your control prevented you from being there—there is very likely a warrant out for your arrest right now.

Different states handle missed court dates differently. However, in most states if you fail to appear a warrant will eventually be issued. Once you are taken in on an outstanding warrant, you may be facing additional criminal charges.

When you miss a court date, some people may hope the case against you will just “go away”, that somehow, over time, the courts will forget about you. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.

Whether or not the police are actively pursuing you, (and in most cases, they aren’t), you are considered a fugitive.

Whether you turn yourself in or wait to be found—you will eventually have to return to court.

In most cases, it’s highly recommended that you turn yourself in. The judge is far more likely to cut you some slack if he/she sees you are willing to own up to your responsibilities. Discussing how to go about this with a defense attorney is highly recommended. A criminal lawyer may be able to help you work out conditions to return that minimize any additional penalties you may face.

But if you are found by the police while you still have an open warrant for your arrest, you will lose whatever leverage you could have if you come forward to resolve the problem beforehand.

In some states, New York for example, you have a grace period of thirty days. If you miss a court date but turn yourself in within 30 days, you won’t face additional charges. But, once these 30 days pass the repercussions become much more serious.

Penalties for Failure to Appear

If you are facing a charge of failure to appear, the classification of the new charge is often directly related to the classification of the case you failed to appear on. In other words, if you failed to show for a court date on a felony charge, your failure to appear charge would be another felony.

Likewise, if you were facing misdemeanor charges and didn’t show up, the failure to appear case will also be a misdemeanor.

There are many situations that can lead to your failure to appear charges being dropped altogether, particularly if the reason you didn’t show up was legitimate and you attempted to rectify the issue as soon as possible.

Is There a Statute of Limitations for Failure to Appear in Court?

Generally, no, a statute of limitations doesn’t apply. You are considered a fugitive from justice, so every day you are a fugitive makes it an active charge that won’t expire.

If you failed to show up for court and aren’t sure of what to do next, let us know. And please don’t wait to deal with it. Even if the missed court date was years in the past, these things don’t go away. It can pop up and cause you serious problems.

But the good news is that an experienced defense lawyer can help you fix a failure to appear charge, sometimes with minimal consequences. And not having this charge hanging over your head can allow to you move on with your life, without constant fear of arrest for a broken tail light.