What To Do If You Miss Your Court Date In Arizona

Skipping a court date in Arizona is not a mistake to be taken lightly. The penalties extend beyond the original charges and can affect your freedom, finances, and future. The first step is to understand the seriousness of Failure to Appear charges and bench warrants. The next and most important step is seeking the help of an experienced attorney who can guide you through the legal maze and fight for your rights at every turn.

If you have missed your court date and have been cited with a Failure to Appear charge in Arizona, you must consult a criminal defense attorney. When working with our law firm, you will have an experienced attorney who is easily accessible, has an excellent reputation, and has a lot of experience handling different criminal matters. Contact our attorney, Alex Benikov, at The Benikov Law Firm today and receive a free consultation to help you determine your next steps.

What Is A Failure To Appear Charge And Bench Warrant?

Failure to Appear (FTA) charges and a subsequent bench warrant can land you more jail time and fines than your original offense. Here is more information about these charges:

  • Failure to Appear (FTA): Missing your court appointment is not just a simple oversight but a criminal offense in Arizona. Depending on the nature of your original case, FTA charges can be classified as misdemeanors or felonies. These charges come with their own set of penalties, including heavy fines, additional jail time, or both. This means you're not just dealing with the original legal issue but an entirely new charge that compounds your legal troubles.

  • Bench Warrant: Once you fail to appear in court, the court typically issues a bench warrant. This legal document authorizes law enforcement to arrest you on sight. The existence of a bench warrant means you can be taken into custody at any time, whether during a routine traffic stop or at your place of employment. This not only leads to immediate jail time but also complicates your defense in the original case, as it shows you as a flight risk or someone who doesn't take your legal responsibilities seriously.

Penalties For Failure To Appear Charges In Arizona

The "Failure to Appear" (FTA) charges can escalate the severity of your situation, depending on the nature of your original charges and actions. The Arizona legal system categorizes FTA into two primary degrees:

First-Degree Failure to Appear: This level applies when a defendant in a felony case knowingly fails to appear for their scheduled court date. "Knowingly" implies that the defendant knew the scheduled appearance and chose to miss it without a valid reason.

  • Penalty: As a Class 5 Felony, the penalties are severe. They include:
  • Fines: The court can impose fines up to $150,000, a substantial financial burden that adds to the stress of legal troubles.
  • Jail Time: Defendants might face up to 2.5 years in prison. This is in addition to any sentences associated with the original felony charges.

The penalties for First Degree FTA are in addition to the punishments for the original charges. This means the defendant faces a compounded sentence for the original crime and another for failing to appear.

Second-Degree Failure to Appear: This category is for less severe cases, typically involving misdemeanors or petty offenses. However, it applies when a defendant misses a court date, regardless of whether the original charges were for a misdemeanor or a petty offense.

  • Penalty For Misdemeanor Cases: The original misdemeanor charge is often elevated to a Class 1 Misdemeanor, the most serious misdemeanor classification, which can result in increased fines and jail time.

  • Felony Consideration: If the defendant has prior convictions, a second-degree FTA might elevate a misdemeanor to a Class 5 Felony, similar to the penalties in a First Degree FTA, but this depends on specific circumstances and the defendant's criminal history.

The escalation of charges serves as a deterrent. The legal system aims to prevent future criminal behavior by imposing stricter penalties for those who repeatedly disregard their legal obligations.

In both degrees of FTA, the consequences are intentionally severe to highlight the importance of showing up to court on time and respecting the legal process. Additionally, these charges can significantly impact one's life, leading to loss of employment and long-term financial strain due to fines and legal fees.

How Can A Criminal Defense Attorney Help?

An experienced Failure to Appear (FTA) attorney is not just a legal advisor but also an advocate who stands up for your rights and interests. Their knowledge of the law and their strategic approach can significantly affect the outcome of your case. Here's how they can act as your advocate:

1. Fight the Warrant:

Assessment of Situation: The attorney begins by thoroughly assessing the specifics of your case. They'll consider the reasons for your missed court appearance, the nature of the original charges, and any previous legal issues.

Arguing for Recall or Lifting of Warrant: If there's a bench warrant out for your arrest due to FTA, the attorney can argue for it to be recalled or lifted. This involves presenting a motion to the court and arguing why you missed the court date and why it's reasonable to cancel the warrant.

Presenting Valid Reasons: Valid reasons such as serious illness, family emergencies, or administrative errors like incorrect addresses can be compelling if presented effectively. Your attorney will gather the necessary evidence and testimonials to support your case.

2. Negotiate with the Prosecutor:

Understanding of Prosecutorial Discretion: Experienced attorneys understand prosecutors' discretion in pursuing charges. They can use this knowledge to their advantage.

Reduction or Dismissal of Charges: Through negotiation, your attorney might convince the Prosecutor to reduce the FTA charges or, in some cases, dismiss them altogether. This might involve presenting evidence of your good character, community ties, or the validity of your reasons for missing court.

Minimizing Penalties: Even if the charges aren't completely dismissed, reducing them can significantly decrease the penalties you face, affecting your fines, potential jail time, and future implications on your record.

3. Represent You in Court:

Accompanying Proceedings: Having an attorney by your side during court proceedings can provide significant reassurance. They will speak on your behalf and navigate the legal protocols.

Protection of Rights: Your attorney ensures your legal rights are protected. They'll object to improper questioning, ensure evidence is presented fairly, and argue for your interests.

Strategic Representation: Based on their understanding of the law and experience with similar cases, your attorney will devise a strategy to present your case in the most favorable light. This might involve calling witnesses, presenting evidence, or leveraging legal precedents.

Contact A Criminal Defense Attorney In Phoenix

If you have missed your court date or have been issued a bench warrant for your arrest, we understand this is a very stressful time in your life. The most important step you can take right now is consulting with an experienced attorney who has extensive knowledge of the criminal justice system and how to handle your legal matter. If you choose to work with our firm, you will always have direct access to your attorney and will work with one of Arizona's most knowledgeable criminal attorneys.

Our firm serves the areas of Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Glendale, Tempe, Chandler, and other areas around Arizona. If you have missed your court date or have been issued a bench warrant in Arizona, please contact us today to schedule your free consultation.

Criminal Defense Lawyer In Phoenix & Scottsdale

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Legal Disclaimer:

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. Benikov Law Firm's legal team is licensed to practice law in Arizona. We invite you to contact us, but please be aware that contacting us does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until an attorney-client relationship has been established.

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