You have failed to appear for court. This seems like a worst-case scenario. However, you can’t go back in time and appear for court, so you need to stay calm and take every step that you can to mitigate the damage. Here are some things that you can do:
- Get to court as soon as humanly possible after your failed appearance.
Whether that means hours or days later, you need to get to court as soon as you realize that you have missed an appearance. There likely has been a bench warrant issued for your arrest, so this likely means that you may spend a short period of time in jail, or that you will have to post a new bond. But the best way for you to avoid jail becoming a long-term situation is to minimize the period of time between your actual court date and when you later appear.
- Go to court with a lawyer in tow.
If you don’t already have a lawyer, hire one and bring the lawyer with you when you appear at the courthouse or jail to turn yourself in on the bench warrant. A lawyer, like a criminal defense lawyer Grand Rapids, MI turns to, will be able to help you minimize the damage from your failure to appear.
If you don’t have the ability to hire a lawyer, when you appear in front of the judge, ask that the judge appoint you a court-appointed lawyer before you give the judge any explanation for your non-appearance.
- Document the reason for your non-appearance.
Hopefully, you have a good reason for not appearing in court. Even if you do, however, the court isn’t likely to simply take your word for it. Try to do everything you can to obtain any documentation regarding the reason for your non-appearance in court. For example, if you were in the hospital, get a copy of your admission records.
- Plead not guilty if you have been charged with contempt of court.
It is likely that if you have missed a court-appearance, a bench warrant will have issued for your arrest, and the court may charge you with contempt of court, a new crime which is punishable by jail time. If this is the case, then the court will advise you of the charge and the possible penalty at an arraignment hearing on the failure to appear. You should plead “not guilty” to contempt of court, and discuss the matter with your attorney before changing your plea or holding a hearing on the contempt of court charge.
- Be prepared to post a new bond.
If you have failed to appear for your court hearing, the court is likely going to require you to post a new bond in order for you to stay out of jail while the underlying case is pending. You should be prepared to post that new bond when you turn yourself in to the courthouse or jail.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Blanchard Law for their insight into criminal defense.