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What Happens When You Don’t Show Up in Court?

Close up image of a gavel in a courtroom

Mistakes happen, but if you don’t show up to your appointed court date, you could face serious consequences. So, what happens when you don’t show up in court?

Bench and Probation Warrants

Sometimes, the details of your court date might be miscommunicated, or an accident prevents you from showing up on time. Whether the court date is for a misdemeanor, minor violation, or a felony, the penalties for failing to show up are serious. In addition to court appointments and hearings, if you violate the terms of your probation or fail to appear in a regulatory hearing, you will face the consequences.

If you don’t appear before the court, the judge may issue a bench warrant or probation warrant to arrest you for failure to appear in court. Your absence may also be in contempt of court if the judge believes you skipped on purpose.

Contempt of Court

Essentially, contempt of court refers to disobeying a court order. In federal courts, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure state that any party who fails to perform a specific action can be charged with contempt. There are two types of contempt the court may charge you with: indirect and direct contempt.

  • Indirect contempt of court may mean that you had a legitimate reason for missing the court date or an outside error that prevented your attendance. If this happens, the court must send you a notice and schedule an opportunity to explain your situation to the judge.
  • Direct contempt of court means that you purposefully avoided attending your hearing or court appointment. In these cases, you could be punished without a trial.

Charges of contempt can result in fines and imprisonment, but the final verdict depends on whether it is a civil or criminal contempt charge.

  • Civil contempt charges apply to those who refuse to obey a court order but eventually perform the required action. If the individual finally agrees to obey the court, the contempt charges may be dropped.
  • Criminal contempt charges apply to direct interference with court proceedings or violation of a court order. This may happen if someone misses their court date to speak with a witness in the case against them or if they violate their probation. Criminal contempt is unconditional and definite, meaning the court will proceed with punishment.

Can I Recall a Bench/Probation Warrant?

You can plead with the court to recall the warrant. You’ll need to explain to the court why you missed the court date and turn yourself in to the judge. Depending on the court schedule and your situation, you may need to schedule a hearing to provide proof of compliance and pay outstanding fines. The judge may choose to recall the warrant if you approach the court as soon as possible about your absence. However, explanations may not be enough if the charges against you are serious or the court issued several warrants before you came forward.

Why Does a Bench/Probation Warrant Matter?

Like all other charges, convictions, and arrests, bench/probation warrants are court records and are therefore searchable by a background check. Most employers use background checks to search for crimes, but an outstanding warrant may have additional consequences - an outstanding warrant will prevent you from leaving the state or country.

Bench and probation warrants are often avoidable or fixable, so it’s important to work with an attorney to recall a warrant and speak with the court. If there are no reasonable factors to prevent your attendance, it is always best to attend your court date to avoid additional charges.

If you need legal counsel regarding a bench or probation warrant in Ft. Lauderdale, schedule an appointment with The Hoffman Firm.

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