When you are given a court date on a criminal charge in North Carolina, you are required by law to appear.
If you fail to appear in court when scheduled to do so, you may face a criminal charge for failure to appear in addition to the original offense.
There are many innocent reasons why you may have missed a court date. You may have been out of town and unable to make it, or perhaps an emergency situation came up. Or you may simply have been overwhelmed by your situation and panicked.
It’s also possible you didn’t even know about the court date. If you were notified by mail, such as with a criminal citation, or for a probation violation or related incident, it’s very possible you didn’t get it, and only found out after being stopped and arrested on the outstanding warrant.
I Have a Warrant for Failure to Appear. How likely are they to find me?
The short answer is, that you will very likely get caught and arrested. And when you do, your best options to escape with a minor penalty or no punishment at all go out the window. The best time to act is before you get arrested.
Alamance County Courthouse credit: dsearls
You may think that no one cares, and no one is making the effort to look for you, so you won’t be caught. You’re probably right that there aren’t vans full of officers charging through your neighbor on the hunt for you. But you can be found at any time, on a routine traffic stop, or even just by driving down the street. Police departments are obtaining new technology video automatic license plate scanning technology that checks thousands of cars per hour for things like outstanding warrants for the driver/owner.
Even a warrant that is years old can suddenly show up on a national database. If you are out of the country, you could be flagged by US customs on your way back in and arrested.
If a warrant has been issued for your arrest and you are unsure where to turn, contact us for a free consultation on your legal situation. We can advise you what additional charges you may be facing and how those charges might affect any other criminal proceedings you are involved in.
The good news is that in many cases, we can fix this situation before it gets out of hand. We can argue that the warrant should be recalled and that you fully intend to cooperate. And if the underlying charge is old, we may be able to get that dismissed too, for lack of evidence against you.
If you have already been arrested for failure to appear, things are definitely trickier, but we may still be able to figure out a way to explain the situation away and keep you out of further trouble and additional charges.
Either way, contact our North Carolina criminal defense lawyers right away for a free consultation on what to do next.
What is Bail Forfeiture?
If you are released from jail pending further court dates and you then fail to show up, your bail will be forfeited. This simply means that any money you put up for your release is now gone.
This also means that if you used the assistance of a bail bondsman for your bail, they will be looking for you.
Following your forfeiture, a warrant will be issued for your arrest.
The Consequences of a Failure to Appear Arrest
The additional criminal charge of failure to appear could potentially keep you in jail throughout the rest of your court proceedings. A judge will view you as a much higher flight risk now that you have failed to show up before.
The classification of failure to appear depends on the charge you were facing when you failed to return to court:
Misdemeanor Failure to Appear – Penalties
If you were released on misdemeanor charges and then failed to return, you will face misdemeanor failure to appear. Misdemeanor failure to appear is a Class 2 misdemeanor which is punishable by 30 days to 6 months in jail.
Felony Failure to Appear – Penalties
If you were released pending felony charges, you will likely be charged with felony failure to appear. Felony failure to appear is a Class I felony which carries a potential sentence of 3-8 months in prison for a first-time offender.
Ref: NCGS 15A-543
Free Consultation on a North Carolina Failure to Appear Case
Contact our experienced defense attorneys right now about your situation. We can set your mind at ease and help you decide what move to make next. We may be able to fix this much easier than you could have imagined.
So call for a consultation on your failure to appear charge today.