Virginia Failure to Appear
When someone agrees or is summoned to appear in court at a specified time, he or she must be certain to honor that obligation. In Virginia, Failure to Appear (FTA) can result in a Judge issuing a bench warrant for the arrest of the individual who missed a court date. Failure to appear before a Virginia court is a criminal offense separate from the crime with which one was originally charged. Even if the initial charge is dismissed or if the case ends in acquittal, the defendant will still pay the penalties of failing to appear if he or she does not show up at the appointed time. If you think or know that you have missed a court date, it is important to contact a lawyer quickly for a proactive approach to dealing with your Virginia failure to appear charge and your bench warrant. It is important to keep in mind that until you surrender yourself on the bench warrant, you risk being picked up at any time.
Penalties for Failure to Appear in Virginia
Failure to Appear is a criminal charge that carries significant penalties. If you mistakenly missed the court date, or if you had a legitimate reason for missing, a Virginia criminal attorney may be able to help you clear the arrest warrant if you act quickly. Although police are not generally actively searching for people with a bench warrant, you can be arrested at any time--most commonly after a routine traffic stop. Once you are picked up, it is much more difficult to avoid the consequences of a contempt of court charge.
If you skip a court date for a misdemeanor charge, your failure to appear charge will be considered a misdemeanor. Misdemeanor failure to appear is punishable by a maximum of one year in jail and up to $2500 in fines. A Virginia felony failure to appear charge may result in $2500 in fines and one to five years in jail.
In either case, if you fail to appear in Virginia court, you will forfeit your bond and may be charged with violation of your probation and have your suspended sentence revoked. The Judge has the option to issue a contempt citation for failing to appear and this carries a fine up to $250 and up to 10 days in jail. Oftentimes this is done when people fail to appear, but be aware that the Judge has the option to issue the misdemeanor or felony failure to appear offense and those carry harder penalties. You never can be sure what a judge will do so you need to make sure you attend all court dates or have documentation for why you missed court.
Failure to appear in Virginia has serious legal consequences. If you have intentionally or unintentionally missed a court date, it is in your best interest to act quickly by contacting an experienced Virginia criminal lawyer for a proactive approach, which can help you avoid unnecessary penalties.
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Some of the criminal violations that the Commonwealth can charge you with are more serious than others. They carry higher penalties, and the impact they have on your life moving forward is much more significant. But even if you have been charged with a far less serious crime, and the penalties might not be that much of an impediment in your life, you need to appear at the court any time the Commonwealth issues a summon for your appearance. If you fail to appear for a court date, you only create more legal issues for yourself. What originally started out as a less serious criminal violation can be insure greater penalties when combined with a failure to appear charge.
If you have already failed to appear in front of the Commonwealth's court when you have been summoned, there are still things you can do to minimize the affects of the charges you face. Retain a qualified legal professional who will work tirelessly towards obtaining a positive result, not only in the failure to appear charge you have just incurred, but also for the first charge that landed you in court in the first place. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation where you will be able to ask any questions you might have, and decide on a strong strategy moving forward.