People facing criminal charges are often released on bail or their own recognizance. This means they are released from jail on the promise that they will attend court to resolve the matter. Many people who receive tickets for criminal traffic offenses never go to jail, instead receiving a notice to appear in court.
Appearing in court to face charges is a legal obligation. Missing a court date can lead to new charges with harsher consequences. Contact an attorney immediately if you miss a court date for any reason. A Manchester failure to appear lawyer at Ruane Attorneys could explain your absence and help resolve the situation.
Missing Court is a Crime
A first missed court date usually leads to a letter from the Bail Commissioner. This informs the defendant of the missed appearance and their rescheduled court date. If the defendant misses court a second time, more significant consequences follow. A defendant should contact a Manchester attorney immediately if they miss the court date set in a Bail Commissioner’s letter.
The judge will issue a bench warrant after the second missed appearance. The court will typically set bond on the failure to appear offense, which is often significantly higher than the bail on the underlying charge. Prosecutors will add a charge of failing to appear, which carries separate penalties from the underlying offense.
Connecticut General Statute §53a-173 describes the crime of second-degree failure to appear. Willfully missing a court date to answer a misdemeanor offense is a Class A misdemeanor, with a potential penalty of one year in jail and a $2000 fine. Missing a court date on a felony charge is first-degree failure to appear, a Class D felony, potentially leading to five years in prison and a $5000 fine.
Bench Warrants for Failing to Appear in Court
Judges and prosecutors take it seriously when a defendant is absent from court. In most cases, the judge issues a bench warrant for the defendant’s arrest. Bench warrants are logged into a computer system that law enforcement agencies around the country use.
Any encounter with the police in any state could lead to an arrest and extradition to answer the charge. If someone with a bench warrant leaves the country for business or a vacation, they might be arrested when they try to cross the border to get home.
There is no time limit on a bench warrant—it remains in effect until a court withdraws it. Our failure to appear lawyers in Manchester could persuade a judge to withdraw a bench warrant if the defendant demonstrates they are willing to answer the underlying charge.
Responding to a Failure to Appear Charge in Manchester
Missing court is only a crime if the failure to appear was willful. The prosecutor might withdraw the charge if there was a legitimate excuse for the defendant to miss court.
Forgetting, oversleeping, or having to work that day are not legitimate excuses. Courts expect defendants to clear their schedules to address criminal charges at the court’s convenience. However, the court might excuse a missed appearance if the defendant could not attend court because they were:
- Involved in a car accident on the way to the courthouse
- In jail in another jurisdiction
- Unaware of the hearing because they never received the Bail Commissioner’s letter
- Dealing with a death or medical emergency involving an immediate family member
The defendant must prove their reason for not attending court, and the judge has discretion to decide whether the excuse is acceptable. A defendant must ensure the court has a current address—claiming non-receipt of the Bail Commissioner’s letter is not an excuse if the defendant moved and did not inform the court.
The local attorneys at our firm could present proof that a defendant did not willfully miss their court appearance. However, proving this becomes more difficult as time passes. If the defendant does not address the failure to appear until they are arrested on a bench warrant, the judge and prosecutor are unlikely to be lenient. After a missed court date, a defendant should contact Ruane Attorneys as soon as possible to resolve the situation.
Contact a Manchester Failure to Appear Attorney Right Away
Missing a court date might not seem like a big deal, but it can lead to additional criminal charges and penalties. If you do not take immediate action to resolve the situation, your failure to appear could lead to increased bail, more jail time, and higher fines.
Regardless of your situation, contacting a Manchester failure to appear lawyer should be a priority. Call Ruane Attorneys as soon as possible to help explain your absence and prevent severe consequences.