If you are currently being prosecuted for allegedly committing a criminal offense, and you are not still in custody, the court will provide you with the next court date at which you need to appear. What happens, however, if you fail to appear at that scheduled court date? A Murfreesboro criminal defense attorney explains what happens if you miss court and what you should do if you find yourself in just that position.
Criminal Law Basics
Although no two criminal cases are precisely the same, most follow a fairly predictable pattern. An original arrest can occur as the result of an arrest warrant issued by a judge or because a police officer showed up on the scene of the alleged crime and made an arrest at that time. Either way, the first stop for a defendant is jail. After being processed and booked, the option to pay a bond to secure your release while the case is pending comes next. If you (or your loved ones on the outside more specifically) are able to post your bond, you will be released and allowed to remain out of custody throughout your case unless you do something that prompts a return to custody. When you are released, you will be given paperwork telling you when your next court day is in mot cases. Sometimes, however, if you are processed very quickly and post bond equally rapidly, your next court date may not be available when you are released. In that case, you will likely be notified by mail of the date. It is important to understand, however, that it is ultimately your responsibility to know when your next court date is.
What Happens If You Miss Court?
If your court date rolls around, and you fail to appear (FTA) without getting prior authorization from the court to be absent, the judge will most likely issue a warrant for your arrest. Because every court (and even individual judges within a court) has wide discretion to handle courtroom procedures as they see fit, an FTA may be handled one way in one court and another way in another court. For example, one court may allow a defendant to call in and get permission to reschedule a court date because of an emergency while another court may consider you to be an FTA no matter what you do to try and let the court know of your situation. Every judge, however, has the authority to issue a warrant if a defendant is an FTA.
Preventing an FTA
If you know ahead of time that you have a conflict with a court date, it is always best to try and resolve the conflict immediately. If you are represented by a criminal defense attorney, let your attorney know as soon as you know that there is a conflict. Most of the time, your attorney can file a motion to continue the court date to another date, or in some cases can get the court to agree to let your attorney appear on your behalf without you. If you are not yet represented by an attorney, now is a good time to retain an attorney. If you are on your own, you can try to contact the court yourself about a continuance; however, most courts will require something in writing before the judge will even consider granting a continuance.
Can You Do to Fix Your FTA?
If your failure to appear was the result of an emergency, or could otherwise have not been addressed ahead of time, your criminal defense attorney is still your best bet for fixing the problem. Some courts will allow your attorney to file a motion to recall the warrant and reset the court date; however, other courts will require you to surrender in court before the judge will recall the warrant. Once again though, you stand a much better chance of resolving the problem quickly and without having to return to custody if you have an experienced criminal defense attorney representing you.
Contact a Murfreesboro Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have questions about a criminal court date you missed in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Murfreesboro criminal defense attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.