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What Happens if I Miss My
Court Date for a Misdemeanor?

Depending on the state, the punishment for failing to appear in court for a misdemeanor crime typically carries up to 6 months in county jail, a fine of $1000, or both a fine and jail.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

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What is "Failure to Appear?"

A “failure to appear,” or FTA, is a situation where an individual who was legally required to personally appear in court willfully fails to do so. If a defendant fails to appear, it will typically result in the judge issuing a bench warrant for their arrest, as well as the filing of additional criminal charges.

The legal mandate to appear in court occurs after an individual:

  • Was ordered by the judge to reappear for a future court date,
  • Signed a written promise to appear,
  • Issued a subpoena to appear in court.

When is Failure to Appear a Misdemeanor Crime and When is it a Felony?

Failure to appear can be alternatively charged with a misdemeanor or felony crime, depending on the charge. The subsequent charges also depend on whether the individual is out on bail or was released on their own recognizance, or "OR".

The criminal classification is based on the underlying criminal charge. Failure to appear is a misdemeanor for misdemeanor charges and a felony for felony charges.

Also Read: What Happens at a Misdemeanor Arraignment Hearing?

How Do I Fix a Failure to Appear?

To clear a bench warrant for failure to appear, you should contact a lawyer immediately. In certain situations, a lawyer may be able to go to court and clear the warrant for you.

However, you may have to go to court yourself, especially if you are facing felony charges. If you must make a court appearance, your attorney will be there to represent you. They will inform you of what to expect and walk you through the process.

You should understand that you can't simply wait for a bench warrant to expire. These warrants remain on your record until they are cleared by the court. Focus on taking immediate action to fix a bench warrant.

Can You Just Pay a Bench Warrant?

If you have failed to appear on a minor/misdemeanor case and a warrant has been issued, you may be able to pay the total bail, or an appearance in court may be necessary. Warrants cannot be settled over the phone or online.

Read Also: Valid Reasons to Get Out of a Subpoena

How Long Do You Stay in Jail for a Bench Warrant?

There is no set amount of time in which you can be held in custody if you are arrested on a bench warrant. If you are awaiting trial, you could be kept in jail until the trial is over. If you are arrested for failure to appear, you may be held in jail until you comply with the court’s orders.

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