One of the most stressful things about having a criminal case is keeping track of your appearance dates. Undoubtedly, life may have gotten in the way and you missed your court appearance. Here is what to do if you missed your court appearance.
1. Do Not Worry
The first thing that you should do is take a deep breath and try not to worry too much about your missed court appearance. These things happen. Judges are people too and are mostly understanding of a missed court appearance. You are even in a better position if you have no history of skipping court and have never missed your court appearance before(this is commonly called “failure to appear”) or have a good reason for your non-appearance.
2. Contact Your Attorney
Whether you have a public defender or a private lawyer, you need to call them as soon as possible. The reason why you need to speak to your attorney is to find out what happened in court. Specifically, whether the judge ordered a bench warrant or stayed the bench warrant and gave you a new date to appear. If a bench warrant was ordered, you need to make arrangements with your attorney to return to court as soon as possible. In the event the warrant was stayed, you should find out the new date and make every possible effort to appear.
With COVID-19 changing how courts are conducted, you need to find out if your next court appearance will be in person or through video. If it is through video, you ought to make sure you have the video link and the video software needed to participate in the court appearance.
3. Complete Any Court-Imposed Requirements
If you were required to pay restitution, clear your parking tickets or complete community service, you need to do your very best to complete any outstanding requirements. Even if the judge is upset with you missing court, showing up with proof that you completed or made progress toward completing the requirements imposed by the judge puts you in a better position with the Court. Importantly, make sure you get all the necessary proof that you completed the requirements. Whether its a letter from the program certifying attendance, proof of restitution payment to Safe Horizon or a receipt from DMV confirming that you cleared the suspensions on your license. Without proof of completion, your case may be getting adjourned for you to provide said proof. Therefore, it is essential to be proactive with getting proof of compliance to save yourself another court date. If possible, provide the documents to your attorney ahead of time.
4. Gather Supporting Documentation
If you had a reason for missing court, besides just forgetting about it, You need to gather supporting documentation. If you missed it because of a medical emergency, get a letter from your doctor or obtain proof of admission to a hospital or a treatment center. If you had a death in the family, you should locate an obituary or some other documentation showing that you were dealing with a family emergency. If possible, provide the documents to your attorney ahead of time.
5. Go to Court
Finally, after you missed your court appearance, you will have to return to court. Generally speaking, if there is a bench warrant issued, the sooner you return to court, the better. The longer you stay out, the more likely it is that the judge will set bail on you. Additionally, if you are stopped by the police or arrested for an unrelated case, the police will have to bring you to court to clear up your warrant. If your warrant is issued by a Supreme Court Judge (for indicted felony matters), you will have to wait until you can appear before that Judge to clear the warrant. That may result in a day or two of being held in jail. Therefore, it is essential to appear before the Court at the earliest possible opportunity if a warrant is issued for your arrest.
On the other hand, if the judge stayed a bench warrant when you missed your court appearance, you will have a set date to return to court. You can check Webcrims to see what your next court date is. After searching by name, you will see if you have a next court date. However, if you cannot find your case after searching by name, there is either an error with the spelling of your name in the court records or the Judge issued a bench warrant. Your attorney will be better able to tell you what happened in court and when you should be going to court.
Have Questions About What to Do if You Missed Your Court Appearance?
If you have any further questions about what you should do after you missed your court appearance, please contact us. We offer free initial consultations and will be able to answer any questions you have about missing your court appearance.