We all forget things from time to time; it’s part of life.
But sometimes we even forget really important things — including court appearances.
If you’ve missed your court appearance, you might be wondering if you have a bench warrant out for your arrest.
You might also worry that you could go to jail because you missed court.
Not addressing a missed court date because you’re afraid of going to jail will only make matters worse.
Instead, contact the Dayton criminal defense lawyers from Gounaris Abboud, LPA.
Our knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys have the skills you need to help keep you out of jail.
Call (937) 872-4197 or send us an online message today for a free consultation.
What Happens If You Missed Your Court Date?
Missing a court date can result in various negative consequences that will ultimately exacerbate your situation.
The first thing that usually happens if you miss a court date is that the judge will issue a bench warrant for your arrest and may even hold you in contempt of court. Law enforcement will be notified of the warrant, as well as the DMV — depending on the charge.
Thanks to this warrant, you can essentially be arrested at any time. The police are authorized to go to your home or place of business to arrest you, but many warrants are carried out during traffic stops. Upon entering your driver’s license into their computer, the police officer will become aware of the warrant and then arrest you.
You might also be subject to:
- Fines and penalties: The judge might levy fines and penalties in addition to issuing a warrant for your arrest;
- Increased bail: If you already had a bail order for your case, the judge may increase the bail amount if you fail to appear.
All this means that it’s unwise to miss your court date. Since it can lead to further charges, fines, and jail time, it’s not worth the risk.
Are There Any Valid Reasons for Failure to Appear?
There are two justifiable reasons for a failure to appear in Ohio. The first deals with the service of the summons. If you were not properly served, you may have a valid argument for not appearing. Second, if you have just cause for not appearing, you may also avoid penalties.
Valid just cause may include circumstances such as:
However, keep in mind that things like work would not qualify as just cause.
What to Do If You’ve Missed Your Court Date
Missing a court date is a serious matter that should be addressed sooner rather than later.
Here’s what you do:
- Contact your lawyer: First, contact your criminal defense attorney immediately to address the situation. Your attorney is in the best position to remedy the situation and protect your rights;
- Disclose why the court date was missed: Clearly communicating the reason for the failure to appear is essential. Whatever the reason, tell your attorney the truth so they can effectively deal with the issue;
- Avoid the warrant: Your attorney will then file a motion to have the bench warrant against you voided. Whether they succeed depends on many factors, including your underlying charges and the reason you missed the court date;
- Reschedule: Although not always possible, your attorney may be able to arrange a rescheduling of the court date. This will allow you to resolve the failure to appear and move forward with your original charges.
While the end result may not be guaranteed, remember to reach out to your attorney immediately after missing court to most effectively deal with the issue.
What Is a Bench Warrant?
A bench warrant is a judge-issued, ad hoc legal document that allows law enforcement to arrest you at any time. While regular arrest warrants might cover a variety of crimes, bench warrants are more specific. They are typically only issued if a defendant fails to pay court-ordered fines, obey court orders, or appear in court for a hearing. These warrants usually remain active until the judge recalls the warrant, you are arrested, or your bench warrant attorneys have it dismissed.
What Happens After Your Arrest on a Bench Warrant?
The Ohio Rules of Criminal Procedure set out the process that police and courts follow after your arrest.
The officer in charge of the booking facility must obey the orders on the warrant. Some warrants are not bailable, while others might order you to post a high bond.
If your charges are misdemeanors, the officer in charge can issue a summons if they believe you will appear in court instead of holding you in jail.
The officer can clear the warrant from the system after issuing the summons. Otherwise, you have to wait until the judge cancels the warrant when you go to court.
The officer in charge does not have the authority to release you with a summons if you have felony charges.
How to Clear a Bench Warrant Without Going to Jail
If you have a bench warrant out for your arrest, you must clear the warrant before you are arrested by law enforcement agencies. Many people accept an arrest as an inevitability and don’t fight their warrant. However, it is technically possible to clear a bench warrant, resolve your failure to appear, and never spend a second in jail.
However, it is not recommended that defendants attempt to clear their names on their own. Instead, individuals with bench warrants should strongly consider employing the services of bench warrant attorneys.
Ways in which your warrant may be cleared without jail time include:
- Voluntary court appearance with attorney: Showing up voluntarily may move the judge to recall the warrant;
- Bail substitution: Your attorney could argue for higher bail in your case to convince the judge to recall the bench warrant;
- Dropped charges: The charges you face might be dropped during your absence.
While there are no guarantees, it’s far better to make every concerted effort to resolve outstanding warrants and avoid jail time. Make sure to contact a Columbus criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after you miss your date.
Remove Your Bench Warrant with Confidence
Getting a bench warrant for a missed court appearance is a serious matter. However, with prompt action and a skilled Columbus criminal defense lawyer representing you, you can remedy the situation and perhaps stay out of jail.
At Gounaris Abboud, we have been fighting for clients in Dayton, Montgomery, Warren, and Butler Counties for years and are ready to fight for you. Contact us online or at (937) 872-4197 for a free consultation regarding an arrest warrant on your missed court dates today.