What Happens If You Don’t Show Up for Court in Virginia

If you are ordered to be in court at a specific date and time and you choose not to go or are otherwise unable to appear, this is usually considered a criminal offense. Whether you missed your court date due to an emergency, family, or work obligations, or because you thought you could ignore it, it is critical to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. Depending on the seriousness of the initial allegations or criminal charges against you and the discretion of the judge, you could simply be found guilty in your absence but you could also face additional charges, and a warrant could be issued for your arrest.

What is Failure to Appear?

Failure to Appear is a separate criminal offense from what you were initially charged with. It can carry its own penalties, even if your original charge is dismissed. If you don’t show up for court in Virigina, regardless of the reason, several consequences may apply depending on your initial charge and the discretion of the judge, including:

– You may be found guilty in your absence. The prosecutor must waive a jail sentence if you are convicted, but you can still face other penalties, including fines. Failure to pay fines and court costs can have other consequences, such as suspension of your driver’s license.

– You may be charged with Failing to Appear, which is a separate crime from your initial charge. Failure to Appear can be a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the severity on your initial charges. The judge may issue a bench warrant for your arrest.

– Your bond may be revoked. Even if you have paid a bond for your release, if you fail to appear for your court date, you may be held in jail until the resolution of your case.

Failure to Appear for a Traffic Ticket

If you have received a ticket for a traffic infraction that provides you the ability but not the requirement to appear in court to contest the ticket and you fail to go to court, the judge will generally hear the evidence against you from the officer who issued the ticket and find you guilty in your absence. You will receive your fine and court costs in the mail. Of course, if the ticket gives you a choice between paying a fine and appearing in court, you may avoid court if you pay your fine, which is an admission of guilt.

If you have been charged with a criminal misdemeanor traffic offense, such as reckless driving, DUI, or driving while your license is suspended, contact a criminal defense lawyer who handles traffic issues. Because of the severity of these types of offense, you may face more severe consequences if you do not appear in court, including an additional misdemeanor charge (Failure to Appear) and a warrant for your arrest.

An experienced Fairfax criminal defense attorney can help. If you’ve received a traffic ticket or been charged with a more serious traffic offense, contact our The NoVa Law Firm immediately to learn about your options and determine the next steps.

Failure to Appear After an Arrest or DUI Charge

Driving Under the Influence, or DUI, is typically a misdemeanor and yet still a serious charge that carries harsh penalties in Virginia. If you have been charged with a DUI or other crime in Northern Virginia, our experienced Fairfax criminal defense lawyers may be able to help you avoid the more serious consequences. We fight hard to beat the charges against you, not just to plead them down.

It is imperative that you contact an attorney immediately and plan to appear at your designated court date for DUI. Failure to appear on a DUI or DWI charge in Virginia will likely be charged as an additional misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and/or up to $2,500 in fines, in addition to the penalties you face if you are also convicted of DUI.

What are the Consequences for Failure to Appear in Court?

If you fail to appear in court for a misdemeanor charge, your Failure to Appear charge will also be a misdemeanor. A conviction for misdemeanor Failure to Appear can result in up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500, in addition to other penalties if you are convicted on the underlying misdemeanor charge. A warrant for your arrest will be issued and may be served at a routine traffic stop, or your home or workplace.

If you fail to appear in court for a felony charge, your Failure to Appear charge will be a felony. Felonies in Virginia are punishable by up to five years in jail and/or fines of up to $2,500, in addition to penalties for the underlying felony charge. If you are out on bond, it will likely be revoked, and you may be jailed pending the resolution of your charges—in some cases this could be weeks or months.

In both cases, you may also be charged with violation of probation or have a suspended sentence reinstated. A judge has wide discretion in instances of failure to appear, and serious consequences can result.

How a Lawyer Can Help If You Missed Your Court Date

If you missed your court date by mistake or due to an emergency, it is critical to act quickly in making the court aware of your situation. An experienced Virginia criminal lawyer can help you contact the court immediately to explain your absence, provide any physical proof (i.e., hospital records), and try to minimize the consequences. Failing to act quickly to address your absence may increase the likelihood of a court finding that you willfully disobeyed the order to appear.

Even if your court date has passed, a lawyer can check if a bench warrant has been issued and help you proactively deal with the consequences. An outstanding bench warrant can affect your ability to find a job or get a driver’s license, and turn a routine traffic stop into a trip to jail.

Consult with a Fairfax Criminal Defense Lawyer

The NoVa Law Firm has a proven track record of success in helping clients charged with Failure to Appear in Northern Virginia. The consequences if you don’t show up for court can be severe, and this situation should not be taken lightly. We have nearly 20 years of experience defending our neighbors in Fairfax and the surrounding areas against all types of criminal charges. Contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation about your case.

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About the Author: Eric Clingan

About the Author: Eric Clingan

Eric Clingan is an experienced Criminal Defense attorney and the founder of the NoVA Law firm. He focuses his practice on defending residents of Northern Virginia charged with DUIs, reckless driving, drug charges, and other criminal accusations

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