In Virginia, A failure to appear (“FTA”) is charged when you fail to appear for your court date. If you fail to show up for your court date, a judge can issue a bench warrant for your arrest. Meaning, there will be a warrant out for your arrest until you either self-report or are picked up by police.
It is a separate criminal offense, aside from what you were initially charged with for which you missed the court date. It is prosecuted separately from your underlying criminal charge and even if your criminal charge is dismissed, you can still be charged with the FTA.
If you are unsure about your court date, given the current changes in the court’s calendar because of COVID-19, call our office or check out our court update page here.
What is Failure to Appear?
A. Whoever, having been released pursuant to this chapter or § 19.2-319 or on a summons pursuant to § 19.2-73 or § 19.2-74, willfully fails to appear before any court or judicial officer as required, shall, after notice to all interested parties, incur a forfeiture of any security which may have been given or pledged for his release, unless one of the parties can show good cause for excusing the absence, or unless the court, in its sound discretion, shall determine that neither the interests of justice nor the power of the court to conduct orderly proceedings will be served by such forfeiture.
B. Any person (i) charged with a felony offense or (ii) convicted of a felony offense and execution of sentence is suspended pursuant to § 19.2-319 who willfully fails to appear before any court as required shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony.
C. Any person (i) charged with a misdemeanor offense or (ii) convicted of a misdemeanor offense and execution of sentence is suspended pursuant to § 19.2-319 who willfully fails to appear before any court as required shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.Va. Code § 19.2-128
Why am I being charged with a probation violation as well?
If you fail to appear for your court dates, you will forfeit your bond and can be charged with a violation of your probation. As a result of this, you can have your suspended sentence from any prior charges revoked. The judge has the option to also cite you for contempt of court and this carries a fine punishable with up to 10 days in jail.
How is a Failure to Appear punished in Virginia?
If your underlying court date that you missed was for a misdemeanor crime, your failure to appear charge will also be a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor failure to appear is punishable by up to one year in jail and up to $2,500.00 in fines.
If the court date that you missed was for a felony charge, your failure to appear will be a felony charge as well that is punished by up to one to five years in jail and $2,500 in fines.
Should I get an attorney?
Yes. Whether you accidentally forgot your court date, were confused about changing dates, or had another reason why you weren’t in court, talk to an attorney about your defenses. Failure to appears aren’t just additional criminal charges. They can have lasting consequences such as jail time, revocation of bond, violation of your probation.
If there is a bench warrant out for you, oftentimes you can be picked up after being stopped for a routine traffic stop. It is important that you get in touch with an attorney as soon as you miss your court date so that you can be prepared to handle this in front of a judge.
There are several defenses to a failure to appear charge and a skilled attorney can help you navigate all the potential consequences as well as evaluate your specific situation to come up with defenses.
If you missed your court date because of court date changes due to COVID-19 or were unable to be in court because of it, call our office to talk about your specific case and check out our COVID-19 criminal law update page.
Contact our office today for a free case consultation.