Missing My Appearance in Court Makes My Case Go Away . . . Right?

A significant percentage of defendants in court cases do not show up to their scheduled court appearance. Some are unaware of their court date. Some have emergencies or other legitimate reasons for not being there. Others simply become overwhelmed with their situation and don't want to face the courtroom.

Failure to show up at court when scheduled can carry serious penalties, however, and defendants should always make the best attempt they can to get to their court date when they have agreed to do so, or arrange for an attorney to go in their place.

Many defendant no-shows involve traffic violations. A traffic citation is essentially a ticket for you to appear in court at a later date so that the officer who stopped you doesn't need to bring you in immediately. If the citation is waivable, the defendant can just pay the fine, which the court will take as a guilty plea and not require an appearance in court. If you fail to pay the fines on time, but still don't show up to court, you will have missed your court date.

Some violations are non-waivable, meaning you have to show up in court no matter what. Failure to show up to court currently carries a $200 fine. The court will reschedule and waive any penalty fees if you contact them within 20 days. After 20 days, however, serious penalties occur.

In addition to fines over and above the traffic citation, the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles can revoke your license and may even impound your car.

Failure to Appear After a Misdemeanor Charge

Many misdemeanors, such as a Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) charge, carry more serious penalties when the defendant does not appear in court. After a defendant fails to appear, the court will issue a warrant for his or her arrest. An outstanding warrant for your arrest means you could be arrested anytime, anywhere.

Once arrested after a failure to appear for a misdemeanor violation, you can face up to 6 months in jail.

Contacting an attorney is helpful after a failure to show. If you have received fines for a failure to show, or have an outstanding warrant for your arrest, contact a criminal defense attorney immediately - criminal cases do not go away by ignoring them.