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I Missed My Court Date! What do I do?

Maybe you stepped out for a bathroom break and they called your name or maybe you just over slept, but what do you do when you arrive too late (or not at all) for your traffic case?

First question: “Was it a traffic ticket or a criminal charge?” If you miss your court date and you were charged with a jailable offense such as reckless driving, DUI, driving on a suspended license ect. then the judge may issue a bench warrant for your arrest (in Virginia, lawyers call this a capias).

Otherwise, the judge will simply have a very brief trial in your absence and usually find you guilty. You will pay $35 in extra court costs for not showing up if the judge does a trial in your absence (a.k.a a “trial in abstentia”).

You can find out if a capias or bench warrant has been issued by calling the court clerk or looking up your case online. If a bench warrant (a.k.a a capias) is issued against you get an attorney immediately. Your attorney can often help get the warrant revoked if you act quickly.

Second question: “How late are you?” If you are just a few minutes late notify the deputies if they will talk to you or just sit around and wait for the end of the docket. Some judges will take guilty pleas from late arrivals and some judges will even reopen your case and continue it to a new court date, but only at the very end of the docket.

If you completely miss your court date there are two options: 1) a motion to reconsider. You go before the same judge that tried you in your absence and ask them to either alter your punishment, remove the $35 trial in absence fee, and/or reopen and reschedule the case.

If you want to plead “not guilty” then you are usually going to have to reopen the case and then reschedule it for the officer’s next court date. You typically have 60 days or less to ask for a motion to reconsider in General District Court.

Option 2), if less than 10 calendar days has past since your missed court date you can ask for an appeal and get a new trial in front of a new judge in Circuit Court. If you are found guilty there will be an additional $150 in court costs, but you will get a brand new trial and the first judge’s sentence will be voided pending appeal. You can also ask for a jury but if you are found guilty you will pay extra for the jury and jury trials are very complicated. Circuit court can be more formal than General District Court so strongly consider hiring an attorney.

If you are late to your trial and the judge finds you guilty in your absence you will have fines and court costs to pay. If you do not appeal or pay your fines and court costs your license will be suspended. If you make a motion to reconsider the license suspension process will not be postponed pending reconsideration, but it will be postponed pending an appeal to Circuit Court.

Luke Nichols

Spectrum Legal Defense

(703) 383-9222

About Luke Nichols

Luke Nichols practices almost exclusively traffic law in Northern Virginia. His primary practice areas include reckless driving, speeding, DUI/DWI, refusal, hit-and-run, driving on a suspended license, and driving on a revoked license. Mr. Nichols has represented hundreds of Virginia drivers. You can also connect with Luke on Google+
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