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2024 Failure to Appear (Bench Warrant Explained in 6 Steps)

A bench warrant for failure to appear is a legal order issued by a judge from the bench (the court) that authorizes law enforcement to arrest an individual for failing to appear in court as required.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

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What is "Failure to Appear?"

According to the US Department of Justice, failure to Appear, or simply "FTA" refers to a situation in which a person who is required to appear in court does not attend as mandated by law [1]. Failing to appear in court when required can lead to further legal complications and negatively impact the individual's case. Individuals who have failed to appear in court should take prompt action to address the situation and comply with court orders.

Here's What Happens When You Fail to Appear

  • Failure to Appear: If a person who is required to appear in court for a scheduled hearing, arraignment, trial, or any other legal proceeding fails to do so, the judge may issue a bench warrant.
  • Issuance of the Bench Warrant: Upon being notified of the failure to appear, the judge will issue a bench warrant. This warrant authorizes law enforcement officers to locate and arrest the person who failed to appear in court.
  • Arrest by Law Enforcement: Once a bench warrant is issued, law enforcement officers have the authority to arrest the person named in the warrant. The individual may be taken into custody and brought before the court.
  • Court Appearance: After being arrested on a bench warrant, the person will be brought before the court to address the failure to appear. This may involve explaining the reasons for missing the court date.
  • Potential Penalties: The court may impose penalties for failing to appear, including fines, additional charges, or other consequences. The severity of the penalties can vary based on the nature of the case and the court's judgment.
  • Rescheduling the Court Appearance: In certain cases, the court may reschedule the missed court appearance and allow the person to address the matter at a later date. This is entirely at the discretion of the court.

Has a Bench Warrant Been Issued for Your Arrest?

If a warrant has been issued for your arrest, it's important to take the situation seriously and address it promptly. You should comply with court orders and appear at scheduled hearings.

Remember that facing a warrant does not mean automatic guilt, and you have the right to legal representation. Consulting with an attorney is crucial to navigating the legal process and protecting your legal rights.

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References:

  1. https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/failure-appear-what-does-it-mean-how-can-it-be-measured