What Are The Consequences For Not Showing Up To Court?
Going to court can be intimidating. And the idea of facing judges, juries, and prosecutors may tempt you to just not show up altogether. But if you’ve been summoned to court and fail to appear, the case won’t resolve itself and it certainly won’t be forgotten. In fact, it will only make things worse. That’s why we’re here to answer all the questions you have regarding the consequences of not showing up to court.
What Happens If I Don’t Show Up?
When you receive a summons or notice to appear in court as a criminal defendant, it is a court order. Violating a court order is a crime itself under federal law, so failing to appear could result in additional charges.
According to 231 Pa. Code Rule 1910.13-1, “If a party fails to appear at a conference and/or hearing as directed by order of the court, the court may issue a bench warrant for the arrest of the party.”
What is a Bench Warrant?
A bench warrant is a warrant for your arrest, named aptly due to the fact that it is issued by the judge from “the bench.” It permits that law enforcement can take you into custody at any time. For example, if you fail to follow a simple traffic law like running a stop sign, the officer that pulls you over is entitled to arrest you on the spot. In a more serious case, the judge may request that police go to your home or place of work to hold you in custody until your hearing.
There are two different types of bench warrants that can be issued in Pennsylvania: Normal and Judge-Only.
Normal Bench Warrant: Warrant issued by the judge that is serving bench warrants on that particular day.
Judge-Only Bench Warrant: Warrant that can only be handled by the judge that issued it.
Bench warrants can also be issued for violating your probation or missing a probation interview, so if you’re unsure of whether or not your failure to appear in court resulted in a bench warrant, it’s crucial you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your options before your situation gets worse.
What Do I Do if I Have a Bench Warrant?
From a judge’s perspective, a failure to avoid your court hearing doesn’t reflect well on your character or intentions. First, you should contact a criminal lawyer in Philadelphia to help advise you of the best course of action. If you missed your court date for a justifiable reason, such as a medical emergency, you’ll want to gather any documentation you can find to prove you received medical care at the time of your hearing.
In any other case, you’ll likely have to turn yourself into law enforcement. Once you do, the court will arrange a date for your bench warrant hearing. There is a chance you could be held in custody for up to 72 hours while waiting for a hearing, or even longer depending on timing with weekends or federal holidays.
At the hearing, the judge will lift the warrant, but it’s likely you’ll have other penalties issued as well. This may include being held in contempt or facing jail time of up to six months. Other repercussions may include:
- Forfeiting your bond
- Charges for any future crimes you commit will likely worsen
- Without an experienced attorney, anything you say at your bench warrant arrest could exacerbate your original charges
- Jail time, fines and suspension of your driver’s license may also occur
If you’ve been convicted for not appearing in court, our attorneys are skilled and ready to help you explore all the viable options to receive the best possible outcome. Don’t wait another day to schedule your free consultation. Contact our experienced criminal defense lawyers so we can fight for you.