Failure to Appear in Court and Criminal Misdemeanors in Oklahoma
Sometimes, appearing in court can seem to be a bit of a hassle. You may have to take time off work or arrange child care. You may have to travel a significant distance if you are charged in a different county or state from where you reside. You may simply be scared of what the court date will hold for you, and you don’t show up hoping to postpone any negative consequences. However, regardless of the circumstances which make it difficult to appear in court when ordered to do so, it is critically important that you show up for your court dates.
Failure to appear in court, sometimes called “nonappearance,” is not looked upon favorably by the courts. In fact, failure to appear is a criminal charge that could seriously complicate your case. If you think showing up for a court date is difficult, nonappearance is much more problematic. Any possible negative outcomes you hope to avoid by not going to your scheduled court date will be multiplied once the court forfeits your bond and issues a warrant for your arrest. Often times, bail bondsmen will hire licensed bail enforcement officers to search for and arrest individuals with warrants for failure to appear in court. The criminal case will not go away just because you don’t go to court.
When you are summoned to appear in court—whether through a traffic ticket or other citation, through a summons, or through a court date set at a previous hearing—you must appear or face serious consequences. Judges and prosecutors do not look lightly on defendants who blame others for their failure to appear. Regardless, your defense lawyer should keep you adequately informed of all court appearances; if you do not have an attorney, it is important to quickly retain legal counsel. At the end of the day though, you personally will be held responsible for staying up-to-date on your court dates and when and where you need to appear for court.
Criminal Penalties for Failure to Appear in Court
Oklahoma law requires a person to appear in court when ordered; failure to do so can have serious criminal penalties in addition to any penalties associated with the original charge.
Under 59 O.S. § 1335, state law says that anyone who willfully fails to comply with the terms of a cash bond or personal recognizance bond is guilty of a felony punishable by a maximum fine of $5,000 and a prison sentence of up to 2 years:
Whoever, having been admitted to bail for appearance before any district court in the State of Oklahoma, (1) incurs a forfeiture of the bail and willfully fails to surrender himself within thirty (30) days following the date of such forfeiture, or (2) willfully fails to comply with the terms of his personal recognizance, shall be guilty of a felony and shall be fined not more than Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00) or imprisoned not more than two (2) years, or both.
Criminal penalties are not the only concern in dealing with a nonappearance charge. If a person who is out on bond does not appear for his or her court dates, the bond may be forfeited, requiring a defendant to remain in jail for the duration of his or her case. Any money posted for bond will be relinquished to the court and not returned. Many times, a judge will also double or triple a previously ordered bond amount if and when a defendant fails to appear for court. In some situations, the judge will deny bond for a failure to appear in court. This means you will not only lose the money you previously paid your bondsman, but you will also have to post an even more expensive bond in order to stay out of jail during the pendency of your case.
Additionally, a judge will likely order a “bench warrant” or “alias warrant” for failure to appear. In other words, if you do not show up when ordered to do so, the judge will issue a warrant for your arrest. This means police can arrest you at any time, which could cause considerable inconvenience. If you are pulled over in a traffic stop, the outstanding warrant will show when police check your ID, and you will likely be arrested on the spot. In serious cases, police may actively search for you. You could be arrested at home in front of your family or at work in front of your co-workers. This may be personally and professionally embarrassing for you.
Other possible consequences include being held in contempt of court, having a license suspended for the duration of the case, or having a default judgment for the other party (in civil cases and protective order hearings, for example).
Failure to Appear Lawyer Representation
If you have already missed a court date, if a judge has issued a warrant for your arrest for failure to appear, or if you are concerned about upcoming difficulties that could hinder your ability to appear in court when ordered, talk to an attorney at once. Our lawyers can keep you from being charged with a felony for failure to appear. In some situations, we may even be able to get the bond forfeiture and bench warrant dismissed and set aside. Call the Law Offices of Adam R. Banner, P.C. at (405) 778-4800 to speak with a defense lawyer about your case and see how we can help.