I Missed My Court Date – Now What?
December 22, 2021 Don Pumphrey, Jr. Bench Warrants/Warrants, Criminal Defense Social Share
Whether you were unaware you had a court date, were unable to attend due to impossible circumstances, or purposefully did not attend, it is imperative you take the correct measures to rectify the situation and avoid further legal repercussions. Regardless of the situation that led you to miss your court date, the first and most important step is to contact a knowledgeable Tallahassee criminal defense attorney who can assist you with your case. Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team of Pumphrey Law Firm have decades of criminal defense experience and will mend the consequences of a missed court date while exploring every possible defense applicable to your case. For general answers to frequently asked questions regarding court dates in Leon County, click here.
Failing to Appear – Misdemeanor vs. Felony Cases
Failing to appear to court after receiving a notice to appear, posting bond, or being released on your own recognizance can carry serious legal repercussions. Under Section 843.15 of the Florida Statutes, if a defendant fails to appear in court after they post bail in any misdemeanor case, they will be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. If a defendant fails to appear in court after posting bail in a felony case, they will be charged with a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison, 5 years of probation, and a $5,000 fine. The court may also hold them in contempt in either of these situations. However, both situations require the failure to appear to be willful, meaning that the prosecutor will have to present evidence proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to not appear. If a defendant can show that uncontrollable circumstances were the cause of their failure to appear, such as a medical emergency or transportation issue, and they did not contribute to the creation of such uncontrollable circumstances, they will not be found to have willfully failed to appear. Other admissible defenses may include lack of notice or incorrect or insufficient notice. To utilize these admissible defenses, it is important to retain experienced legal counsel.
Bench Warrant for Failure to Appear
Once a defendant fails to appear, the court may issue a bench warrant, also called a capias, for the defendant’s arrest. Bench warrants allow law enforcement officers to arrest you on sight upon finding out an active warrant exists, such as if you got pulled over for a traffic violation. Now, the defendant will not only face the initial criminal charge they failed to appear for, but also a new criminal charge of failure to appear. As a result, this bench warrant will likely preclude a defendant from posting bond, so they will be forced to remain in jail until they appear in court.
Will the Warrant Ever Expire?
In Florida, a bench warrant for failure to appear will not simply go away if you avoid it, therefore, it will remain indefinitely unless you are arrested or take remedial action by contacting a criminal defense attorney who will act on your behalf. If you were initially charged with a misdemeanor, your warrant may have the possibility of being recalled if the statute of limitations has passed. Therefore, it is best to contact a criminal defense attorney who can craft an argument to potentially have your warrant recalled, and upon the motion being granted by a judge, you’ll be given a new court date and can potentially resolve your case altogether. Other options include your attorney filing a motion to surrender in which you would surrender yourself to jail and immediately go to court or surrendering to jail and being placed in custody where you then may be able to post bail.
I Don’t Live in Florida But Have an Active Warrant There – Can I Be Arrested?
Even if you do not live in Florida, a warrant for failing to appear in court or for any other criminal charge will subject you to arrest in your home state. However, depending on the facts of your case, there is a possibility that a criminal defense attorney can help resolve your outstanding warrant without you physically traveling to Florida.
Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney
If you failed to appear to your court date in Leon County and are now fearful there is a warrant out for your arrest, contact an experienced Tallahassee criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to avoid any additional charges. Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team of Pumphrey Law Firm have decades of criminal defense experience and will explore every possible defense applicable to your case while fighting zealously in your corner. Contact Pumphrey Law Firm today at (850) 681-7777 or send an online message to discuss your case during an open and free consultation with an attorney in our legal team.
This article was written by Sarah Kamide