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I Missed My Court Date. What Should I Do? 

Underwood Law Firm Nov. 15, 2022

Empty American Style CourtroomIf you missed your court date, it is critical to understand what happens next and what you should do to avoid negative and potentially disastrous consequences. If you wait and do nothing, you could be facing additional charges for failure to appear in court.  

At Underwood Law Firm, our criminal defense attorneys help people who have missed a court date and do not know what they should do. Regardless of the reason you missed your court date, our attorneys can help you minimize the potential negative consequences and avoid additional charges for missing a court date. With an office in Bakersfield, California, we serve clients facing charges throughout Kern County.  

Criminal Charges for Missing a Court Date  

Missing a court date could potentially result in additional criminal charges, including failure to appear (FTA). In California, there must be evidence to prove that an individual “willfully” failed to appear at a required court date to charge them with FTA.  

A judge may issue a bench arrest warrant depending on the underlying charges. Criminal charges for missing a court date can lead to penalties, the severity of which depends on whether the initial charge is a misdemeanor or felony.  

If there is a warrant for your arrest after missing a court date, police officers may come to your house to take you into custody. In any scenario, consider hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney to explore your legal options to avoid additional charges for failure to appear in court.  

What to Do If You Missed Your Court Date  

Showing up at a criminal court on the scheduled date and time is extremely important. However, it is not uncommon for people to miss a court date for a valid reason or no reason at all.   

If you wonder, “What should I do if I missed my court date?”, you are probably looking for a plan that includes clear, actionable steps. In reality, the steps you should take if you fail to appear in court depend on your specific situation. A skilled attorney can review the facts of your case and devise a customized strategy that fits your unique situation.  

There are legal ways to defend yourself against criminal charges for failure to appear after missing a court date. Keep in mind that there must be evidence to prove that you willfully intended to evade the court to charge you with a crime for your failure to appear. If you want to avoid the negative consequences of missing a court date, you could argue that you did not purposefully evade the court. Whether or not you can use this argument to avoid criminal charges for failure to appear depends on the facts of your case, so you might want to consult with an experienced attorney before you do anything or make any statements.  

Many people wonder, “Should I turn myself in if I’ve missed my court date?” after failing to appear at a required court date. If you choose to turn yourself in and go to the court that issued the bench warrant, make sure that you have your attorney with you to protect your rights. An attorney will help you resolve your missed court appearance to minimize or avoid the possible repercussions.  

Possible Repercussions of Missing a Court Date 

Under California law, there is a 14-day grace period during which you can show up in court and avoid the negative consequences of missing a court date. In other words, you have 14 days after skipping your court date before it is presumed that you are evading the court and a bench warrant is issued.  

Penalties for failure to appear charges arising from missing a court date include: 

  • Fines 

  • Jail or prison sentence 

  • Probation 

If you skipped your court appearance when your underlying offense was a felony and you paid bail to get out of jail, your failure to appear would most likely be treated as a felony. If you were released on your recognizance without posting bail, failure to appear in court would be treated as a misdemeanor. If you posted bail and failed to appear, you would get your money back.  

According to the website of the Superior Court of California, people who fail to appear in court for a traffic ticket risk having their driving privileges suspended by the DMV. Missing a court date is a serious matter in California, which is why it is critical to have a knowledgeable attorney on your side to help you avoid or reduce the repercussions you could face for failure to appear.  

We Are With You Every Step of the Way  

As with all legal matters, it is not advisable to handle a potential failure-to-appear case on your own. If you missed a court date and wonder what you should do, contact our criminal defense attorneys at Underwood Law Firm. It may not be too late to resolve your missed court appearance in your favor. Reach out to our office in Bakersfield, California, to get our reliable legal guidance every step of the way.