When a criminal defendant is scheduled for a hearing he or she is required to appear before the judge. A failure to appear (FTA) means that the defendant did not appear as he was supposed to. In Florida, failure to appear is a separate criminal offense, with its own penalties. The situation is treated differently depending on the circumstances of the event. For example, failure to appear on a misdemeanor charge is treated differently than for a felony charge. If you are supposed to appear in court, speak to an attorney who can represent you throughout the process and help keep you informed of what you need to do.
When a defendant fails to appear, the judge will issue a bench warrant. A bench warrant is a no-bond warrant that requires the defendant to immediately be taken into custody. Once a warrant is issued you can be picked up almost anywhere. If you are stopped for a traffic violation the police will find that you have a warrant and you’ll immediately be put in custody. It’s best to always appear for your court hearings, no matter what the possible consequences. If you have already failed to appear there are some steps you can take to resolve the problem.
There are several choices you have if you have failed to appear. You can choose to surrender, at which time you’ll be placed in custody. Rather than immediately go to jail, your attorney can file a motion to surrender, which would allow you to surrender to a courtroom instead of directly at jail. Another option is for your lawyer to file a motion to withdraw the failure to appear and request a new court date. The judge will decide how to proceed and will take many factors into consideration, including the severity of the original crime as well as your criminal history.
If you don’t do anything after an FTA you’ll be facing a number of problems. You’ll be ineligible to receive unemployment compensation and government support and you could have your driver’s license suspended. An active warrant could make it difficult to get a job because this issue will appear during a background check. Similarly, you’ll have problems renting an apartment. An FTA will also carry its own penalties. The best option available to you is to immediately seek assistance from an experienced criminal attorney. Your lawyer will review your case and help determine your options as well as guide you through the next steps.