Representing Individuals with Issues Related to Failure to Appear
Kentucky takes criminal charges seriously. As such, criminal judges expect those charged with a crime to keep their court dates. Not showing up at the designated date, time, and place for your court hearing, otherwise known as, failure to appear, might invoke severe penalties that only stand to compound the issues surrounding the reason the court date was set to begin with. As a result, judges are often forced to add more charges to the original charge, usually resulting in a bench warrant issuance for your arrest.
Missing a court date can happen for a variety of reasons. However, unless you have a verifiably acceptable explanation for not showing up when you should have, such as being in the hospital, it’s best to get in touch with an experienced Georgetown criminal defense lawyer to discuss your legal options.
What is a Court Summons?
If you receive a traffic ticket or are charged with a crime, you may receive legal orders, a criminal summons, or another type of summons to appear in court. You may need to appear in court for the following:
- Pre-trial conference
The court order to appear is known as a summons. It will have specific details about the date and time you must appear. Suppose you miss a court date in Kentucky. In that case, you could be faced with substantial consequences, up to and including more criminal charges. At Stotts Law, we know that mistakes happen to even the best of people, and we will stand up for your rights and fight for the best outcome if you fail to appear according to your summons.
What is Bail (also known as “Bond”)?
Bail (or “bond”) acts as a type of monetary insurance between a criminal defendant and the court. Defendants who receive bail can make a financial and legal agreement that, if released, they will return for future criminal court proceedings, including trial and sentencing.
Many states allow bail bonding for profit. However, in 1976, Kentucky enacted laws to ban commercial bail bonds and bounty hunting. Instead, the Pretrial Services Agency was designed to provide the court with pre-trial release recommendations. They make their determinations using criminal background checks personal interviews, and risk assessments. The judge then chooses to either:
- Set bail high enough to discourage the defendant from skipping out on trial or being a danger to the community
- Release the defendant without assigning bail on their own recognizance
- Make the defendant stay in custody
If the judge grants bail and the defendant pays the full amount, it’s returned to them when the case is resolved. However, the court will take out any fines or restitution if you plead guilty or are convicted at trial before giving it back to you. If you can’t afford the entire bail amount and only IF the judge permits it, you can get out on bail paying the court just ten percent in cash or by property bond. The court returns the bail to you when you fulfill your promise to appear in court as scheduled. However, in bail-for-profit systems, unlike Kentucky’s, the bail bonds agent keeps the ten percent plus fees.
Not everyone facing criminal charges I guaranteed the right to have a bail release. Even still, some bail is typically set in nearly every new criminal case. Pre-trial services gathers information and makes recommendations, but the ultimate decision is up to the judge presiding over the case. Individuals with less serious charges who are well-established in the community with local employment, homes, and families are usually deemed to have minimal flight risk. So they receive relatively low bail amounts.
Missing Your Court Date: Possible Criminal Charges
If you don’t have an extremely valid reason for missing your court date, such as being in the hospital, you could face one of the following charges:
- Contempt of court: A misdemeanor charge because you failed to obey a court order
- Failure to appear: A “failure to appear” does not equate to a criminal charge. Rather, this merely means the Court makes a note that you, the defendant, failed to appear for a court date. The judge can do one of three things in this scenario: (a) Issue a bench warrant for your arrest; (b) Issue an “FTA” or administrative failure-to-appear; or (c) both “a” and “b.” When a judge simply issues an FTA, this does not mean that the defendant is subject to being arrested (like a warrant). Instead, you may find that your driver’s license becomes suspended as a result of the outstanding FTA. An experienced Georgetown criminal defense lawyer like the ones at Stotts Law, PLLC, can help you have these warrants and/or FTA’s set aside, if possible, before your next court date.
In addition to these potential charges, the judge in your case can opt for one of the following actions:
- Bench warrant: A warrant for your arrest. You might need to remain in custody until your trial, depending on the types of your original charges.
- Jail sentence or fines: If you are found guilty of contempt of court or failure to appear, the court can order you to jail or impose fines.
- Bond revocation or adjustments to your release terms: If you didn’t require bail, you may after missing a court date. If you are already out after paying your bail, the judge could raise your bail amount or require you to stay in jail until your trial is over, denying you bail.
Failure to Appear Can Lead to Arrest
Perhaps you think that because your court summons was for a minor offense, you won’t get arrested if you fail to show up on your court date. Unfortunately, many police officers have access to new technologies in the form of scanning devices that automatically scan license plates to find out if the vehicle’s owner has any outstanding warrants, including bench warrants for failure to appear. In this way, you could easily be found and arrested on a bench warrant without even breaking any driving laws.
Meeting with a skilled Georgetown criminal defense attorney and admitting you made a mistake by failing to appear will most likely save you from much stress. For example, it might allow your attorney to show the judge justifiable cause for your failure to appear.
Did You Fail to Show Up for Court? Call Us Today to Speak with a Georgetown Criminal Defense Lawyer
No matter what happened to cause you to miss your court date, we are here for you. You can count on us to determine how to best proceed in your case. We will protect your rights and ensure you receive fair treatment, whatever the circumstances might be.
Call an experienced Georgetown and Lexington criminal defense attorney at Stotts Law today at (502) 383-1550 or contact us online to schedule a consultation. We offer flexible scheduling and give each client the time and attention they need, as we know each case is unique.