Going to court might not be the most enjoyable thing you have to do in life. Missing a court date might seem easier than going to court and missing work, finding someone to watch your children, or maybe finding a ride. However, failing to attend court when ordered could make your legal situation much worse.
If you missed a court date, the judge likely issued a bench warrant for your arrest. You need to take care of that quickly and correctly. The Orlando criminal defense lawyers with Moses & Rooth are available to help remove your warrant and reschedule your court date while minimizing the chance you will lose your freedom. Contact us today.
Today, we’ll discuss what to do if you miss a court date. We’ll also go over several reasons you can legitimately attempt to reschedule your court date.
Here’s What Could Happen if You Missed a Court Date
Section 901.31 of the Florida Statutes delineates the power the judiciary has to make people attend court. This law says that a person who willfully does not appear in court as required by a written notice faces a fine and imprisonment.
The maximum incarcerated sentence and the maximum fine for failure to obey a written promise to appear in court are the same as the lead charge. Therefore, you commit an additional crime by willfully missing a court date. Therefore, the judge can sentence you on a contempt charge for failure to appear even if you beat the original charge the police arrested you for.
So What Are Valid Reasons to Reschedule a Court Date?
Going to court is stressful, but it’s not optional. You cannot just skip court if you’re afraid of what might happen. Missing court because you’re afraid of the consequences will only make those consequences worse.
What Is a Valid Reason to Miss Court?
You might avoid punishment if you have a valid reason for missing your court date. Judges decide what is and is not valid on a case-by-case basis, so there’s no one right answer. However, there are a few reasons a judge might excuse your absence from court. Those include:
- The death of a loved one in your immediate family;
- The sickness of a child or parent if you care for that person;
- An emergency hospitalization;
- Severe illness;
- Admission to an inpatient drug rehabilitation or detoxification facility;
- A car crash; or
- Another emergency situation.
There has to be a real emergency for a judge to excuse your presence from the court.
You should be prepared to go to court as soon as possible after your missed date to clear up any warrant the court issued for your arrest.
Tips for Missing a Court Date
Your lawyer should be willing to go to court with you to clear up a bench warrant. Having a lawyer by your side shows the court that you are serious about your case and did not mean to disrespect the court by ditching your court date.
Talk to your lawyer about why you missed court, and give your lawyer any documentation you can obtain to prove why the court should excuse your absence. And do it as quickly as possible.
The longer you wait, the less a judge is likely to believe that you could not avoid missing court. If they think you missed court without a valid reason, they can hold you in jail until your case resolves, or they can increase your bail conditions.
How to Continue or Reschedule a Court Date
Having open lines of communication with your attorney will help avoid difficult situations. Give your attorney some warning if you have to miss court. For example, let your lawyer know you are having surgery and will not be physically able to go to court. Your attorney will go to court and tell the judge why you’re not there, but they have to know the reason first. If the judge asks your lawyer where you are and they have no idea—it looks very much like you simply didn’t bother showing up.
Also, have a family member contact your attorney if you are incapacitated. You or a family member can call the clerk’s office and explain the problem as well. While it is preferable to talk to your attorney and then let your lawyer talk for you, calling the clerk’s office can help if you cannot get in touch with your attorney.
We Are Here to Help If You Missed Your Court Date
The Orlando criminal defense lawyers with Moses & Rooth know the Florida criminal justice system well. As former prosecutors and now accomplished criminal defense attorneys, the attorneys with Moses & Rooth understand how to keep you from sinking deeper into trouble. Call our office today. Our clients can reach us around the clock. We do this to ensure our clients have the best representation possible. Do not wait to address your missed court date. Contact us today.