So, you missed a court date. Maybe you simply forgot to renew your driver’s license last month and didn’t know you needed to appear in court, or maybe you’re facing felony charges and your family member had a medical emergency. Whatever crime you’re accused of and whatever your reason for failing to appear, missing a court date in Orlando, Florida is a serious matter that must be addressed as soon as possible.
Failure to appear in court can result in jail time, increased fines, and it can show up on your permanent records. It’s essential that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney like us here at Smith & Eulo Law Firm to help navigate your Failure To Appear (FTA) charges.
What happens after I miss a court date?
When you don’t show up for a scheduled court appearance, the judge presiding over your criminal cases will immediately issue what’s called a bench warrant. A bench warrant is different from an arrest warrant–which is created by law enforcement to aid in a criminal investigation–but they’re treated the same by police.
After the judge issues a bench warrant, an order for your arrest is immediately put in the system. You may not even know you’ve had a warrant issued for your arrest until you encounter an officer of the law. You could be arrested during a routine traffic stop when the cop pulls up your criminal records, they could arrest you on-sight after having been given your physical description, or they may even show up at your home or place of employment to take you to jail.
How can I find out if I have a bench warrant?
The state of Florida offers a free public search of their warrants database. This website is not always up to date though, so make sure to check the Clerk of the Court’s website in the county where you were charged. Orlando’s Orange County Clerk of Court’s search is located here.
Having an outstanding warrant in your records can affect many different things in your life, from your government benefits like Social Security or Medicaid, to your employment and renting status. Thus, it’s important to contact a criminal defense attorney and prepare to turn yourself in. We have a combined experience of 78 years serving the citizens of central Florida and we here at Smith & Eulo Law Firm will make sure you’re treated with the utmost justice and fairness.
What happens if I’m arrested because I failed to appear in court?
If a police officer fulfills your court orders and arrest you, you’ll be placed in jail until you’re able to pay your bond. This bond charge will equal the fines of your original charges plus your failure to appear charges. In cases where you’re facing a felony charge, failure to appear warrants will have your bond set to $0.00, meaning you have no right to jail release.
You will need an experienced warrant lawyer to file a motion for a bond hearing in order to set bond. This hearing would occur at your next court date, during which would also be your criminal arraignment and your plea entry.
What if my court date was for a felony or a first degree misdemeanor?
While all failure to appear charges should be treated with the utmost seriousness, if you were being tried for charges of a higher degree and classification, FTA charges will come with more consequences. According to Florida Statute 843.15 (b) you’ll automatically be convicted of any third degree felony or first degree misdemeanor charges.
On top of that,
- Your bail will be forfeited
- Your Failure To Appear charges felony if your original charge was a felony, or a misdemeanor if your original charge was a misdemeanor.
- You’ll be subject to increased fines and potential jail time
- Felony charges may result in fines as high as $5000, and you could serve up to five years in prison
- Misdemeanor charges could lead to $1,000 in fines and placement in jail for up to a year
By working with a criminal defense lawyer trained in these types of situations, you can avoid further ramifications and get your future back on track. Smith & Eulo have a combined 20+ years of experience serving the citizens of Orange County Florida and we’re confident that by working with us, you’ll have peace of mind knowing we’re taking care of business.
We also have locations in Jacksonville, Tampa, Ocala, Lakeland, Kissimmee and Daytona Beach.