When a person is charged with a crime, the court will typically set one or more hearings that the individual must attend. Even if a person makes every effort to appear in court, mistakes sometimes happen, and a criminal defendant may fail to show up for a scheduled hearing. It is important for people who have missed court dates to understand the potential consequences of their actions and what measures they should take to mitigate the possible penalties. If you missed a scheduled criminal hearing, it is in your best interest to meet with a capable St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to assess your options.
What to Do if You’ve Missed Your Court Date
First, it is prudent for anyone who has missed a court date to contact an attorney as soon as possible. Typically, the attorney will contact the court and attempt to diminish any negative ramifications that may arise out of the failure to appear. For example, if you were released on bond prior to the hearing, the bond may be forfeited, and you may have to pay additional fees to remain out of jail. In some instances, the bond may be revoked altogether, and you may be sentenced to pre-trial detention. The judge could also issue a bench warrant, which means that the police can arrest you and detain you in jail until your next hearing date.
Perhaps the most serious consequence you might face for the failure to appear for a court hearing is in additional charges outside of the offenses the hearing you missed was scheduled to address. Specifically, Florida Statute 843.15 provides that if you willfully fail to appear before a judge, you may be charged with a crime. If the underlying offense you are charged with is a felony, you will be charged with a felony of the third degree, while if the underlying charge was a misdemeanor, you will be charged with a misdemeanor of the first degree. You may also be held in contempt of court.
Notably, if you are charged for failing to appear for a hearing pursuant to Florida Statute 843.15, the State must prove that you acted willfully to establish your guilt. In other words, it must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that you intentionally refused to appear before the judge and that your failure was not caused by neglect, inadvertence, or any other cause. This is a high burden of proof, in that it requires the State to essentially show that a reasonable person could not come to any conclusion other than the fact that you acted willfully.
Confer with a Seasoned St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Attorney
Missing a court date can have significant consequences, and it is essential for anyone that failed to appear for a scheduled hearing to understand what steps they should take to try to avoid an adverse impact. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a seasoned criminal defense attorney, and if you missed your court date, he can advise you of your rights and help you to seek the best outcome possible under the circumstances. You can reach Mr. Hanlon through the form online or at 727-897-5413 to schedule a conference.