DC Criminal Defense Lawyer

Failure to Appear


Forgetting a court date or failing to appear for another unforeseeable event might be understandable, but the court isn’t going to give you the benefit of the doubt. When a judge tells you to answer to charges or return to court on a certain date, you are expected to be there. Failing to appear can create major problems for you.

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If you missed a court date, you may have an outstanding warrant out for your arrest.

The best solution to making things right with the court is to turn yourself in, which is what all attorneys will tell you. But, deciding exactly how this should happen should be discussed with a criminal defense lawyer beforehand. You cannot afford to be stopped by the police or caught and arrested before this happens. But if you are prepared to voluntarily turn yourself in, there are often excellent options to minimize or even eliminate additions penalties for bail jumping or failure to appear in a DC court.

A judge granted you bail or released you because it was believed you would return. What the original charges were and whether you had a clean criminal record, a full time job, or other responsibilities to attend to, could have all played a part in the judge’s decision. But when you fail to return, you can bet the judge won’t be too happy.

If you are granted bail in a case or released on your own recognizance, you must return for future court dates. If not, you could be deemed a fugitive from justice and a bench warrant issued.

DC Failure to Appear Penalties

If you are charged with failure to appear, you will face up to 5 years in prison and fines reaching $5,000.

Although this sort of sentence is only meted out in the most serious of situations, it does occasionally happen. But if you wait for the police to find you and serve the bench warrant, you can bet you’ll be waiting in jail for your next court date, not released on another bond. If you are stopped for a traffic ticket, you will be arrested for the warrant when they run your driver’s license.

Ref: DC Code 23-703

Many times people get scared after missing a court date. They think if they just “lay low” for a while, the problem will go away. There is no statute of limitations for a failure to appear.  Being a continuing, active fugitive from the law makes it a current crime.

The longer you wait the worse off you could be when it comes time to see the judge. However, if your charges are old, and you haven’t been in trouble since then, this could work to your advantage when you are willingly coming forward to a warrant cleared up. In fact, with old charges, they may not even be able to prove the original case against you any longer, so it is possible for you to be free and clear of an outstanding warrant hanging over your head.

If you forgot your court date or just couldn’t make it because of an emergency, leaving the area, or maybe you just panicked, contact our offices today. We can talk about your options and discuss the best way to handle the warrant and help fix and minimize any potential new charges against you.

Contact us for a consultation today on how we can help you fix this.

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