If you had a court appearance and did not show up, there could be significant consequences. Depending on the circumstances, you might have been found guilty by default, or a judge might have issued a bench warrant for your arrest. You might even face additional criminal charges.
If you missed a court date, regardless of the reason, a Greenville failure to appear lawyer could help you contain the damage. Call as soon as possible so your defense attorney can offer the most effective assistance.
Notify the Court Before the Hearing if Possible
Sometimes a legitimate emergency prevents someone from showing up to court as scheduled. Being in the hospital, a loved one’s medical emergency, or having to be in a different court on another matter could all be legitimate excuses.
In a true emergency, the best course of action is to ask a Greenville attorney to appear at the scheduled court date and explain why you could not appear in person. The next-best option is to call the court and notify the clerk of the situation. The court does not have to reschedule or accept the excuse, but making an effort to contact the court before the hearing could persuade the judge toward leniency.
Sometimes, you must work on their scheduled court date or have no one to care for their children. Unfortunately, courts are unlikely to consider these excuses true emergencies. In other cases, you might forget about the hearing or just decide not to attend. In such circumstances, you could expect significant consequences for your failure to appear.
Seek Legal Help After Missing a Court Date
When you simply fail to appear in court or if the judge does not accept your excuse, the judge has various options, depending on the type of case. If the hearing is about a motor vehicle infraction, the judge could find you guilty in your absence. You would then have to pay whatever fines and other penalties the violation carries.
If the hearing was about a misdemeanor offense, the judge could issue a bench warrant, or perform a trial in absence, referred to as a TIA. Law enforcement rarely go looking for people with bench warrants for misdemeanor convictions, but if they stop the person for any reason—even just to warn them of a broken taillight, for example—they could check for warrants. If police find a current warrant, they will place the person under arrest.
Informing a Greenville failure to appear attorney immediately after missing a court date could help minimize the consequences. A lawyer could present your excuse for non-attendance at traffic court and possibly reopen the hearing. If there is an active bench warrant, the attorney might convince the judge to lift it by guaranteeing your presence at future hearings.
Willful Failure to Appear is a Crime
South Carolina Code §17-15-90 makes failure to appear in court on a criminal matter a separate crime. Even if you are acquitted on the underlying charge, you could face hefty fines and jail time for a willful failure to appear.
If the underlying charge was a misdemeanor, a conviction on failure to appear could lead to one year in jail, a $1000 fine, or both. If the charge was a felony, the sentence for failing to appear could be five years’ imprisonment, a $5000 fine, or both.
Conviction of the crime of failing to appear requires proof that the failure was willful. A resourceful attorney in Greenville could present your reasons for missing the court date to persuade the judge that the failure was not an intentional effort to avoid justice.
Work with a Capable Greenville Failure to Appear Attorney to Resolve Your Case
The best thing to do after missing a court date is to hire an experienced lawyer to help navigate your unique situation.
Christopher J. Jones, a Greenville failure to appear lawyer with experience as a former prosecutor and municipal judge, knows what the judge wants to hear and how they want to hear it. An attorney also has the knowledge to potentially undo some of the consequences of a failure to appear, like reopening a hearing or vacating a warrant.
The sooner you deal with a missed court date, the easier the resolution is likely to be. To get a local attorney working on the issue right away, call and schedule your free initial consultation.