If I have missed my court date, what should I do?
When a defendant misses court, the judge typically issues a warrant for that person’s arrest. With a knowledgeable, experienced attorney, you can probably avoid arrest and jail time.
Missing a Court Date Happens. It Should Not Cost You Your Freedom.
It is not uncommon for people to miss their court dates. Errors in schedule can occur due to court mistakes, lapses in memory, or miscommunication. In other circumstances, a defendant is afraid to come to court for one reason or another and has a lapse in judgment. In most cases, so long as the situation is handled just right, all is not lost. Each court and judge is different, but an experienced criminal defense lawyer will know how to help. Defendants missing court dates is not an uncommon occurrence, and lawyers deal with that situation all the time. A warrant was likely issued for your arrest if you missed your court date.
The most important thing to do if you miss a court date is not to panic. Mistakes happen, people make impulsive choices, and errors in judgment occur occasionally. Even the harshest judges can be persuaded to give a defendant a second chance, even when it seems they have no mercy or compassion. The second thing you must do is contact your attorney. A knowledgeable, experienced criminal defense lawyer will know the proper steps to get things back on track and minimize potential consequences. If you do not have a lawyer, it is vital that you retain someone to assist and protect you ASAP.
Reasons Someone Might Miss a Court Date
There are various innocent reasons why a criminal defendant might fail to appear in court for a felony or misdemeanor hearing. It’s important to note that while these reasons may be genuine, failing to appear can still have serious legal consequences. Some of these reasons might include:
Miscommunication or Lack of Notification: The defendant might not have received the notification about the court date due to a clerical error, a change in address, or miscommunication from their attorney.
- Medical Emergencies or Illness: Sudden medical emergencies or serious illness can prevent a defendant from appearing in court. This includes hospitalization or incapacitation due to health issues.
- Transportation Issues: Lack of access to reliable transportation, vehicle breakdowns, or public transportation failures can lead to missed court dates.
- Confusion Over Dates or Times: The defendant may have misunderstood, forgotten, or mixed up the date or time of the court appearance, especially if they are managing multiple legal or personal appointments.
- Family Emergencies: Situations such as a death in the family, a seriously ill family member, or an urgent childcare issue can lead to an unexpected absence.
- Work-Related Conflicts: In some cases, work obligations, especially in jobs where taking time off is difficult or penalized, can interfere with court appearances.
- Mental Health Issues: Mental health conditions, including severe anxiety or depression, can sometimes impede a person’s ability to attend court.
- Legal Misunderstanding: The defendant might mistakenly believe that their appearance is not required, especially in cases where they have legal representation.
- Incarceration or Detainment Elsewhere: In rare cases, a defendant might be in custody or detained elsewhere (e.g., in a different jurisdiction) and unable to attend the scheduled court date.
- Unforeseen Events: Events like severe weather can make it impossible to drive to court, thus preventing court attendance.
When a defendant misses a court date for innocent reasons, it is crucial to communicate this to legal counsel as soon as possible. Never contact a judge, prosecutor, or the court’s staff on your own. Let your lawyer take care of things on your behalf because they will know how to rectify the situation without unnecessarily endangering you or risking your freedom. Providing your attorney documentation or evidence to support the reason for the absence can also be helpful. It’s crucial for those facing criminal charges to understand that courts generally expect them to make every effort to attend scheduled appearances and that failing to appear can lead to additional legal consequences, such as the issuance of a bench warrant.
Finding a Good Lawyer Sooner than Later will Help!
If you’ve missed your court date, it takes approximately 48 hours for the warrant to enter the Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN). If you get back into court quickly, most judges do not have any problem reinstating a forfeited bond and setting aside a warrant. A good, respected lawyer will know how to best communicate a reason for the missed court date to minimize the chances of having a problem. If longer than a few days have passed, the situation is more complicated, but all hope is not lost. Every lawyer has their own way of handling this difficult situation.
Many lawyers find one successful technique and stick with it regardless of its continued success or failure because it is comfortable and familiar. A better approach used by Michigan’s best criminal defense attorneys is a customized plan based on the particular judge, court, offense, prosecutor, and the defendant’s circumstances. When factoring in all these complex issues and using the highly developed skills a great criminal defense attorney develops through years of experience, there is almost always a way to get the client out of a tight situation.
Persuading a Judge to Forgive a Defendant for Missing a Court Date
In cases where a criminal defendant fails to appear in court for a scheduled hearing, a lawyer can employ various strategies to convince a judge to be lenient or forgive the absence. The attorney would first gather all pertinent information and evidence to substantiate the reason for the defendant’s nonappearance. If the absence was due to a genuine and unavoidable circumstance, such as a medical emergency, transportation breakdown, or a critical misunderstanding, the lawyer would present documentation to support these claims, like medical records or a mechanic’s report, if applicable. The attorney might also emphasize the defendant’s past compliance with court dates and legal processes to establish a pattern of responsibility and respect for the legal system. They could argue that this isolated incident is out of character for the defendant and highlight their willingness to reschedule and attend future hearings.
Additionally, the lawyer would likely assure the court of the defendant’s commitment to abide by all future court requirements and, if necessary, propose measures to prevent future lapses, such as more reliable transportation arrangements or calendar reminders. By demonstrating the defendant’s overall responsibility and the exceptional nature of the missed appearance, the lawyer aims to persuade the judge that the failure to appear was not a deliberate act of contempt, but an unfortunate consequence of circumstances beyond the defendant’s control. This approach, coupled with the defendant’s respectful and apologetic tone, can effectively convince a judge to exercise leniency.
Get In Touch with a Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney
The most important thing to do is not to panic! Talk to your attorney as soon as possible and ask what can be done. If your lawyer is good, they will immediately know how to handle the situation and do whatever needs to be done. If you talk to your attorney and they seem unsure about handling the missed court date, it may be time to find a new lawyer.
If you do not have a lawyer or you’re looking to hire a top criminal defense lawyer to help you deal with a warrant or any criminal charge in Michigan, call us for a free consultation. We can arrange for you to be arraigned and get the warrant aside so you have the best chance of remaining free on bond, even if you missed your court date. We can help you.
Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.