Missing your court date is a serious offense, and it is essential that you address this misstep as soon as possible after your scheduled appearance. Doing nothing is not an option and ignoring the problem will only make matters worse. If you have failed to show up in court, do not hesitate to contact a qualified legal professional. A Minnesota failure to appear lawyer could work with you to resolve your situation and minimize any further punishment.
The Severity of Skipping a Court Date
A notice to appear before a judge is an order that carries the weight of law, and a person does not get to decide whether they should attend. Everyone involved in the legal matter in question must be present, including the judge, court staff, counsel for both sides, and the jury, if appropriate. If a person does not appear in court when they are asked, a judge may view their absence as disrespectful.
Not every failure to appear is intentional, and in some cases, circumstances beyond the defendant’s control make attending court impossible. Explaining this may allow individuals to avoid further punishment, but they must not delay doing so. Without a valid excuse, the court may take corrective steps.
Court Actions After A Person Fails to Appear
When a person misses their court date, the judge may issue a bench warrant for their arrest. Law enforcement does not actively seek the subject of this type of warrant. Instead, they will wait until the next encounter with the individual, such as during a traffic stop, and arrest them at that time. The warrant remains in effect until the person is in custody, and it never expires.
If the appearance relates to a traffic offense, the court may suspend the person’s license, per Minnesota Statutes §§ 169.92, Subdivision 4 and 171.18, Subdivision 1(10). Defendants might be completely unaware that they are driving with an invalid license, committing an additional offense.
By seeking a Minnesota attorney’s advice immediately after missing their court date, a defendant could settle the matter before this warrant is issued.
Penalties for Failing to Appear in Minnesota Courts
In addition to issuing warrants and suspending licenses, the court may sentence offenders to jail time and impose fines. The extent of these additional punishments depends on the underlying crime. The more severe the original crime, the steeper the penalties for failing to appear.
A defendant facing felony charges will receive a mandatory sentence of 366 days imprisonment and a $1,500 fine. The law provides the judge with latitude to incarcerate the individual for a period equal to half the maximum amount of time allowed for the underlying crime, order half the maximum fine, or both. This means that if the prior felony carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a fine of $5,000, the judge may sentence the defendant to ten years and order a $2,500 fine in addition to any penalty imposed for the original crime.
The law also outlines the penalties associated with gross misdemeanor and misdemeanor offenses. In these cases, the accused may face up to 90 days in jail and maximum fines of $1,000. For petty misdemeanors, Minn. Stat. § 609.491, subd.1 allows the court to enter a plea of guilty and forgo a trial.
Individuals may avoid additional punishments if they voluntarily turn themselves in within the specific time frames or if they prove to the court that their absence was out of their control and not intentional. A Minnesota lawyer who regularly represents people in failure to appear cases could help a defendant avoid costly, add-on penalties.
Make Things Right with the Help of a Minnesota Failure to Appear Attorney
Do not compound your mistake of missing your court date by pretending it never happened. The sooner you face the issue, the better off you will be. A Minnesota failure to appear lawyer could help you take responsibility before the court and allow you to avoid the severe consequences of this offense. Reach out today to learn more about your options.