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How Long Do You Stay in Jail for a Warrant for Missing Court?

Did you know that simply missing a court date can land you in jail? Paying attention to scheduled court appearances is very important, regardless of the reason you’re supposed to appear in court. Whether you’ve been charged with a criminal offense, fail to report for jury duty, or have been subpoenaed to appear as a witness, a warrant can be issued for your arrest if you fail to appear. What you may be wondering is what are the consequences if you do fail to appear for court and a warrant is issued?

How Do Failure to Appear Warrants Differ?

If you were subpoenaed to court as a witness or for jury duty, failing to appear for court carries much less significant consequences for jail time, usually only 1 day to 1 month – especially if this was a first time issue for you. Civil cases can also result in failure to appear warrant, such as failing to appear when charged with a civil indirect contempt for not paying child support, alimony, or not complying with some other court order. If you fail to appear for these types of cases, you could end up in jail for up to 6 months

However, if you’ve been charged with a criminal offense the consequences become much more serious. If you’ve been arrested and posted bail and then fail to appear for court, your bond is usually going to be revoked and then you could spend the rest of the time waiting for resolution of your case in jail – which can be up to one year. Depending on the alleged offense and the situation of your local jail, you may be released again, but possibly an ankle monitor or some other restriction. Because many jails are overcrowded, those charged with lesser offenses may be released with such restrictions. 

For various reasons, you may have been given a suspended sentence. In these situations, you can live a mostly normal life while serving your “sentence” assuming you follow the rules put in place by the court. These may include drug or alcohol testing, fines, and court appearances. Failure to abide by any of these can cause your suspended sentence to be revoked and instead be sentenced to in jail time. These times differ based on the offense you’re sentenced for, but could be a few months to a few years

Is it Common to Be Sentenced to Jail for Failing to Appear for Court? 

Although it is certainly an option for the Judge to sentence people to jail for failing to appear for court, unless it is a serious criminal offense, chances are that you likely wouldn’t be sentenced for very long, if at all. This does not mean, however, that it isn’t serious. The Judge may instead use another form of punishment for failure to appear, such as fines. If you make a habit of not appearing for court, you are much more likely to be sentenced to jail and for the maximum amount of time. Certainly, failing to appear when out on bail is the most likely situation that the court will sentence you to jail. 

There are several reasons you could be ordered to appear in court – as an alleged perpetrator or victim, as a witness, as a party to a Civil case, or for jury duty. All of these situations can result in a warrant being issued and you being sentenced to time in jail. Some situations, such as failing to appear while out on bail, are more likely to result in your being sentenced to jail time, but all court appearances are important and should be considered as possible situations for failure to appear warrants being issued. 

FERNANDA EZQUERRO

FERNANDA EZQUERRO

A graduate of the Thomas Jefferson School of Law and practicing since 2014, attorney Fernanda Ezquerro is fully dedicated to her career, specializing in criminal defense and immigration.

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