What Happens If I Don’t Show up for Court?

what happens if i don't go to court

You’ve been charged with a crime, and your court date is rapidly approaching. It’s understandable to feel anxious or even tempted to avoid the situation altogether by skipping your court appearance.

However, as criminal defense attorneys, we cannot stress enough the gravity of such a decision. Intentionally or not, missing a court date can have severe and long-lasting consequences that can seriously impact your life.

What is Failure to Appear (FTA)?│NRS § 199.335

Failure to Appear (FTA) occurs when an individual fails to appear in court as required by a court order, summons, or subpoena. This can happen accidentally, such as having transportation issues, or deliberately by attempting to evade the legal process.

In Nevada, an FTA is classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Under Nevada Revised Statute section 199.335, an FTA is punishable depending on the severity of the original charges. If the original charges include:

  • One or more misdemeanors but no felonies or gross misdemeanors, the person is guilty of a misdemeanor
  • At least one gross misdemeanor but no felonies, the person is guilty of another gross misdemeanor
  • At least one misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor but not felonies, but the person left Nevada with the intent to avoid prosecution, a Category D Felony
  • At least one felony, the person is guilty of a Category D Felony

While a misdemeanor FTA may seem less severe, it’s essential to understand that even a minor offense can have significant implications.

What Happens When You Miss a Court Date

When you miss a court date, the judge will likely issue a bench warrant for your arrest. A bench warrant is a court order authorizing law enforcement to locate, detain, and bring you before the court to answer for the FTA charge.

Under Nevada law, you generally have thirty days to respond to a bench warrant by surrendering to the appropriate authorities.

Contempt of Court Charges

Failing to appear in court can also result in contempt of court charges. Contempt is an offense that occurs when an individual willfully disobeys a court order or disrespects the court. If found guilty of contempt, you may face fines, jail time, or both.

Forfeiture of Bail

If you were released on bail before your scheduled court appearance, failing to show up will likely result in the forfeiture of your bail. Bail is a financial guarantee that ensures your presence in court, and when you fail to appear, the court has the right to keep the bail money as a penalty.

Potential Criminal Charges and Penalties

In Nevada, failure to appear for a court date can result in a misdemeanor or felony charge based on the circumstances:

  • Misdemeanor FTA Charges – In Nevada, a misdemeanor FTA charge can carry penalties such as fines, probation, or even jail time. The severity of the punishment often depends on the nature of the original charge and whether you have any prior FTA convictions.
  • Felony FTA Charges – If the original charge was a felony, failing to appear in court can escalate the situation to a felony FTA charge. Felony convictions can result in substantial fines, lengthy prison sentences, and a permanent criminal record that can hinder your future prospects in various aspects of life, such as employment, housing, and travel.

The consequences of an FTA charge can be further compounded by aggravating factors. For instance, if you have a history of failing to appear in court or if the original charge involved violence or a serious offense, you may face harsher penalties.

Steps to Take After Missing a Court Date

If you’ve missed a court date, it’s crucial to take immediate action to mitigate the potential consequences. Here are some steps you can take:

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney

The first and most important step is to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer. At Benjamin Durham Law Firm, we understand the complexities of Nevada’s criminal court system and can guide you through the process, advising you on the best course of action and representing you in court.

Voluntary Surrender

In some cases, voluntarily surrendering to the authorities can demonstrate your willingness to cooperate and may result in more favorable treatment. Your attorney can help facilitate this while ensuring that your rights are protected during the process.

File a Motion to Cancel the Bench Warrant

If a bench warrant has been issued, your attorney may be able to file a motion to quash, or cancel, the warrant. This process typically involves demonstrating a valid reason for your absence and convincing the court that you do not pose a flight risk.

Avoiding Future FTAs

While addressing the immediate consequences of an FTA is crucial, it’s equally important to take steps to prevent future occurrences.

Here are some tips:

  • Stay organized: Utilize calendar reminders, set multiple alarms, and make transportation arrangements well in advance to ensure you don’t miss another court date.
  • Communicate with your attorney: Keep your legal team informed of any potential conflicts or issues that may arise. This will allow them to make the necessary arrangements or request a continuance on your behalf.
  • Understand the impact: Multiple FTAs can exacerbate the situation, leading to harsher penalties.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if I miss my court date in Nevada?

A bench warrant will likely be issued for your arrest. You may also face charges for failure to appear, which can result in fines, probation, or jail time, depending on the original offense.

Can I be charged with a felony for not showing up to court in Nevada?

Yes, if you fail to appear for a felony charge in Nevada or attempt to flee, you can be charged with a Category D Felony offense for failure to appear. This can lead to substantial fines and potential prison time upon conviction.

How do I get a bench warrant lifted after missing court in Nevada?

Your attorney can file a motion to quash (cancel) the bench warrant by demonstrating a valid reason for missing court and convincing the judge you are not a flight risk. Voluntarily surrendering may also help resolve the situation more favorably.

Benjamin Durham Law Firm Advocates for You

Failing to appear in court may seem like a solution to avoid an unpleasant situation, but the consequences can be far-reaching and severe. From bench warrants and contempt charges to potential fines, jail time, and even felony convictions, the risks are simply not worth taking.

At Benjamin Durham Law Firm, our experienced criminal defense attorneys are dedicated to protecting your rights and advocating for the best possible outcome.

If you’ve missed a court date or are facing FTA charges, don’t hesitate to contact Benjamin Durham Law Firm. We’re here to help you navigate this difficult situation and ensure your voice is heard.

Author Bio

Benjamin Durham is the principal attorney and founder of Benjamin Durham Law Firm, a criminal defense law firm based in Las Vegas, NV. With over 20 years of experience in the legal field, he represents clients in both injury and criminal cases. Over his career, he has secured favorable verdicts for clients in both state and federal courts and successfully defended numerous high-profile prosecutions.

Ben’s exceptional legal skills and dedication to his clients have earned him recognition as a life member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He also has been honored as one of the Top 100 trial lawyers by the National Trial Lawyers Association, further solidifying his reputation as a top-notch legal practitioner.

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