I’ve started a video series on Facebook detailing things that you should know about court and the criminal justice system. One of my recent videos talked about what happens when a client fails to appear in court. A synopsis of the video is available below. Check out my video series and other information by following me on Facebook.
If you have picked up a case, you have scheduled court dates every four to six weeks or so. And you need to make sure that on those scheduled court dates, you come to court. I know this seems like a pretty basic principle, but many clients say “I didn’t think I had to appear”. Or there are other factors involved, like issues getting to court. For example, a lot of my clients say, “I don’t have a ride to court” or “my car broke down” or whatever the case may be.
What Happens When You Fail to Appear?
You have picked up a criminal case. And whether or not there is a sufficient basis to support a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt, you still have to answer to those charges. And that’s what the purpose of your bond is. Most people post a bond or you got a promise to appear. But a promise to appear in and of itself is still a condition of release. The purpose of bond is to ensure your presence in court and protect the community and/or the victim if there is one in your case. But, if you don’t appear in court, the court will then think, “this bond is obviously not sufficient to ensure your presence in court and so it should probably be higher”. And so then what happens is the court orders you rearrested and a warrant will issue for your arrest.
This happened to me recently with a client. I call his name in court, I don’t see him in court so I call his phone. This is around 10:15. Keep in mind, you really should be at court by 9/9:30 at the latest. I call his phone and he says to me, “well I’m having a problem getting a ride to court. I can’t find anyone to take me”. And I ask him, “how soon can you get here?” And he says, “well, I don’t know, I don’t have anyone to pick me up”. And I tell him, “well at that point then, you have to take an Uber. You have to do what you have to do to get here, you have a scheduled court appearance”. He says, “I don’t have money for that, I’m under house arrest, I can’t work”. All of these things I feel for, but the court does not really care about those things. So I say to him, “listen, I’ll wait for a little bit, but you need to get here. I’ll do my best and try to get the court not to order you rearrested and I’ll ask for another court date, but I can’t make any guarantees. Ultimately it’s up to the court”. So I sit there for another hour, the court ends up calling his case around 11:15 and he gets ordered rearrested.
The court stays the order until 4:00 so I have my office call him and say, “listen, you need to get to court before 4:00 so that the judge can vacate the rearrest, otherwise a warrant will issue”. So I leave – I have to go to court in another jurisdiction for 2:00. Luckily he makes it to court later that afternoon. But, clients get upset when they get ordered rearrested. But my office sends you a letter in the mail reminder, I tell you in court that day when your next court date is, we send you text message reminders. So you know when your next court date is going to be and you need to make sure that you are there.
Acceptable Excuses for Failure to Appear
Now, there are some circumstances where the court will excuse your absence, like if you’re in the hospital, or if you’re in an inpatient treatment program for either psychiatric issues or drug issues and I have a verifiable letter that you’re an inpatient at those treatment programs. Most of the time, the court will waive your appearance unless the court feels that you’re ducking sentencing or ducking some other issues and that you’re purposefully making yourself unavailable. But absent those kinds of things, usually those situations will excuse you.
But the “I can’t get to court because I don’t have a ride and I don’t have money for an Uber” – that’s just not going to cut it. And the court is going to likely order you rearrested, especially if you have a prior Bail Commissioner’s Letter (BCL) or you have a prior Failure to Appear in the file, or if you have prior Failure to Appear convictions on your criminal history. So those are the issues surrounding bond and where your bond can be increased and/or a warrant issued for your rearrest. If you have a court date, go to court. I’m not sufficient to just appear on your behalf. You need to physically be there.
If you want to talk about that further, you can email me at [email protected]