If you have an interaction with the police that ends in a citation, ticket, or arrest, then you likely will have a date in the courthouse at a future date. Whether you have an attorney or not, you should know whether you are actually expected to appear in court or whether you can skip it.
Should I go to court if I have been arrested?
The short answer is yes. Even if you have an attorney, if you are facing potential jail time, you need to show up to court. In some circumstances, you may be busy on that particular day and can ask your attorney to appear for you and move the court date. There is no guarantee that the judge will do this in every case but generally, it works for the first few court dates.
If you are not facing any jail time for your offense and wish to plead guilty, then you may just sign the waiver at the bottom of your ticket and mail it in. If you do not wish to plead guilty, then you will either have to appear to present a defense or send your attorney instead to present a defense on your behalf.
Should I go to court if I got a traffic ticket?
It depends. Certain traffic tickets actually carry jail time in which you will have to appear in court. An example would be a speeding ticket for 20 miles per hour over the speed limit or any speed above 80 miles per hour. In Virginia, this is considered reckless driving which carries a maximum sentence of one year. If this is the case then you will have to appear in court.
If your offense does not carry any jail time, then you either plead guilty by signing the ticket and sending it in or fight the ticket by appearing in court on the date specified. If you are busy on that day, then you can send an attorney for you to fight the ticket or reduce it if possible.
What will happen if I don’t?
If you don’t show up to court you may get “failure to appear” charge. Depending on the case, that could mean two different things. A failure to appear in a felony trial means that you are now guilty of an additional class 6 felony. If the failure to appear is in a misdemeanor case, then you are now guilty of an additional class 1 misdemeanor.
In addition to being guilty of an additional charge, a bench warrant may be issued for your arrest which means you can be arrested and brought to court. This can happen even if you send an attorney to appear for you if the case has been continued too many times.
Another possibility is that you can be tried in absentia, which means the case goes on without you and the judge can consider your non-appearance when deciding your sentence. This is only used in extreme cases or when a defendant fails to appear many times.
What do I do if I have a bench warrant for my arrest?
If you have a bench warrant issued for your arrest, the best thing you can do is to turn yourself in. This will look favorably for you when the case actually gets tried. Alternatively, you can send your attorney to attempt to quash the bench warrant. If you would like the attorney to quash the bench warrant, explain the circumstances around your failure to appear. Your attorney will advise you on whether or not he thinks he will be successful and what is the best route for you to take. You may also want to provide documentation to prove to the judge that it was not your intention to skip your court date such as hospital records or a mechanic’s bill.
This article is not intended to substitute legal advice. If you are unsure about your circumstances please find a lawyer who can help you if you live near Fairfax, Loudon, and Arlington and Prince William counties.