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Failure to Appear in Texas

If you have been summoned to attend a schedule hearing, trial or proceeding in a court of law, and you do not appear at the scheduled time, you could be charged with Failure to Appear (FTA). As this is a serious offense, with potential for jail time and the issuance of an arrest warrant, it is in your interest to enlist an attorney to help you communicate with the court.

What Happens if I Fail to Appear?

While there are several reasons that a person may be summoned to court, let’s demonstrate what happens if you are summoned to face criminal charges and mistakenly fail to show up at the appointed time. There are many reasons why this might accidentally happen – you were unable to secure a ride to court, you believed the summons was for a different date, etc. The important thing is to know what happens next.

Issuance of Bench Warrant: When the proscribed time passes in which you were to be in court, the judge will issue a bench warrant for your arrest. This bench warrant serves as a legal order for law enforcement to seek you out and arrest you. Your attorney can check for any outstanding bench warrants on your behalf, keeping you from potentially incriminating yourself or exposing your location to law enforcement, while learning more about the warrant or related charges.

Loss of Bond: In this example, in which you are facing criminal charges, you will likely have posted a bond or bail to secure your release until the trial. When you failed to appear, violating the conditions of your release, that bond became forfeit. Essentially, that money now belongs to the court and is lost to you forever.

Additional Criminal Charges: Beyond the initial criminal charges you were facing, you may now be charged with FTA or bail jumping. As an additional charge, this carries several penalties depending on the nature of the original charges. For class C misdemeanors and other minor offenses such as a traffic ticket, FTA could carry a $500 fine. For Class A or B misdemeanors, penalties increase to monetary fines up to $4,000 and up to a year in jail. For felony charges, FTA can carry a prison sentence between 2-10 years and fines up to $10,000.

Even if your failure to appear was a simple mistake, the legal system can bring FTA charges against you. As such, it is vital to work with your attorney in explaining your reasoning and requesting a rescheduled date.

What Should I Do If I Miss a Court Date?

Whether you are facing criminal charges or have been called to testify, it’s important to act quickly if you fail to appear at the appointed time. Failure to do so can lead to a warrant for your arrest and further legal consequences.

Step One: Call your Attorney. The legal process for FTA can be complicated, and your attorney can advise you on the best way to navigate your way through with specific knowledge of your case.

Step Two: Reach Out to the Court. This can either be done by contacting the court directly or by using your attorney as an intermediary. Be respectful and compliant as you explain the circumstances of your absence and request a rescheduled court date.

Step Three: Follow The Court’s Instructions. If a bench warrant has been issued, your attorney can work with law enforcement to quickly address and resolve the issue. Even if a bench warrant hasn’t been issued, there still may be fines, additional conditions of release or other legal actions you’ll need to take. Resolve those matters and make sure you meet your rescheduled court date to avoid further issues.

Step Four: Prepare for your Rescheduled Court Date. If you are facing charges, resolving an FTA is just the beginning. You’ll still need to ready an effective defense for your rescheduled court date and prepare to respond to the original charges against you.

Can an FTA Charge be Reduced or Dismissed?

Certain extenuating circumstances such as an emergency or unexpected family matter can lead to a reduction or dismissal, but only if you are able to take the necessary actions such as appearing at your rescheduled hearing and following court orders. In some cases, issues with the original charges or violations of your rights can lead to a dismissal. Your attorney can walk you through your options and work to reduce or dismiss charges if possible.

Can a Bond be Reinstated?

Under Texas law, bail can be reinstated, allowing you to avoid the fines, jail time and additional charges that come with FTA. Once reinstated, the legal case will simply resume where it left off before you failed to appear.

Can a Court Date Be Rescheduled if I Know I Can’t Make It?

If you know prior to your assigned court appearance that you will be unable to attend – for example, if a family member falls ill – it is possible to request a continuance from the judge. Your attorney can work with the judge to explain the situation and request a later court date at a time when you would be available.

What Are Some Possible Defenses for FTA Charges?

There are several strategies that your attorney can employ to defend against failure to appear, depending on the individual circumstances of your case. A few of these include:

Mistaken Date: Whether through simple error or a miscommunication on the part of the court, this defense requires you to demonstrate your sincere belief that the trial was to be held on a different date. This may require producing supporting evidence such as emails or witness statements.

Extenuating  Circumstances: This defense requires you to show that an unforeseen emergency, ranging from an automobile accident to a medical emergency, kept you from appearing at your trial. Medical records and police reports can help you support your claims in this defense.

Insufficient Notice: Providing copies of any correspondence provided by the court or any documentation you might have can help prove that you were not properly notified of your court date.

Incarceration: If you were unable to appear due to circumstances stemming from incarceration –  issues with prisoner transport, being held in a separate jurisdiction – this could provide defense against failure to appear. Law enforcement testimony or department of corrections documentation can aid in your defense.

Issues with the Bench Warrant: If the bench warrant was issued in error, or there are procedural problems with the process used to issue it, you may be able to challenge the validity of the bench warrant and thus the FTA charge.

Appearing in Person: If you appear before the court of your own volition shortly after the original court date, the judge may be willing to waive the FTA charges and resolve the underlying legal issue.

It is vital that you work with your attorney to determine which defense best suits the particulars of your case.

Schedule a Free, Legal Consultation

If you believe that a bench warrant has been issued for you, you can avoid the additional penalties that come from a failure to appear charge by submitting your contact information below. Our attorneys can investigate for any outstanding warrants and negotiate on your behalf, protecting you from arrest and interrogation while gathering information about your cases and challenging the allegations against you.

That information serves as the cornerstone of our tried-and-tested approach, one that hinges on exhaustive preparation. We keep our caseloads light, so that each and every client gets our utmost attention, giving us the bandwidth to gather and analyze all the evidence to build an insurmountable defense. When your trial begins, we will know more about your case than the prosecution or the arresting officer, providing an unbeatable edge in securing your freedom.

Because that is ultimately what we’re all about – your freedom. Securing it. Defending it. And ensuring that you walk away with a clean criminal record.


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