Whether your court appearance is due to a criminal charge, a subpoena, or other summons, it is illegal to skip a court date. A missed court date in Arizona can have serious consequences. If you miss a court date for any reason, it is important to consult with an Arizona criminal defense lawyer, particularly if your missed court date pertains to charges against you in a pre-existing criminal case.
Criminal Penalties for a Missed Court Date in Arizona
Court orders, whether for defendants or witnesses, are legally binding. If you knowingly miss your court date, the court can find you in contempt and charge you with failure to appear. Both of these criminal violations may result in a misdemeanor or felony charge, fines, and jail time. Penalties are stiffer for defendants already charged with another crime.
Bench Warrants for Missed Arizona Court Date
A missed court date in Arizona usually results in the issuance of a bench warrant against you, regardless of the reason you were supposed to appear. A bench warrant can lead to arrest and subsequent jail time without bond. In addition to failure to appear in court, bench warrants may also be issued for violation of Arizona probation rules or failure to comply with other court orders.
Can a Bench Warrant Be Dropped in Arizona?
If you were under subpoena or your appearance was for a lesser charge, typically the court will still issue a bench warrant in Arizona. Whether law enforcement will show up at your door to arrest you depends on the seriousness of the charge related to your case.
For example, failure to appear in court for a traffic ticket in Arizona is much less likely to lead to arrest or jail time than a missed court date for a felony in Arizona. Police officers may not actively pursue you for a bench warrant related to a minor offense, but should you come into contact with law enforcement organically—say, during a routine traffic stop—you can expect to be arrested for any outstanding bench warrants.
In order to drop a bench warrant, you’ll need to appear before a judge. Because bench warrants carry separate criminal charges, you’ll likely need a skilled criminal defense attorney who can appear on your behalf in court in order to have bench warrants and any resulting criminal charges dropped. A criminal defense attorney may also be able to negotiate an arraignment or hearing to help you avoid being taken into custody after a missed court date.
Driver’s License Suspension for a Missed Court Date
The court can order the Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) to suspend your driver’s license immediately if you’ve missed a court date in Arizona. Your license may not face suspension in every situation, but if your charge concerns a traffic violation, such as failure to appear in court for a speeding ticket, suspension is more than likely.
Your license may be suspended for simple civil traffic violations or for more serious criminal charges like a DUI. Suspensions will remain in effect until you appear before a judge, where you (or your lawyer) will be required to justify why you missed your court date.
Failing to Appear After Bail
If your court appearance was in correlation to a previous criminal charge and you were out on personal recognizance or bail, missing your court date can change your circumstances significantly.
If you were released on personal recognizance, the judge may now require bail for your release. Alternatively, you may be held without bail until your trial for the additional criminal charge of bail jumping, which is a federal crime and a felony.
If you posted a bond for bail, failure to appear in court in Arizona is considered bail jumping and subject to forfeiture of bail. This means that the court system may keep whatever money or property you used as collateral, instead of applying it to fines and other court costs, or returning it to you. Once the court revokes your bond and arrests you, you must post a new bond. However, if the court allows a new bail amount, it will likely be a much higher dollar amount.
Additional Criminal Charges
A missed court date in Arizona is a criminal charge, whether you are a defendant or a witness. (Note: witnesses may not be required to appear in court only if they contest the subpoena in writing). Those who knowingly skip a court date may be held in contempt of court, charged with failure to appear, or both.
Is Failure to Appear a Misdemeanor or Felony in Arizona?
Failure to appear in court in Arizona can be either a misdemeanor or felony charge. These charges are referred to as failure to appear in the first or second degree. How you may be charged depends on several factors. The biggest factor, if you missed a court date for criminal charges already pending against you, is what kind of crime you were originally charged with.
Failure to Appear in the First Degree
Per ARS 13-2507, if you fail to appear in court in connection with a felony charge, you can be charged with failure to appear in the first degree, which is a class 5 felony charge. For example, if your missed court date was in regards to an aggravated DUI in Arizona, you could be charged with failure to appear in the first degree and, if convicted, you could face an additional prison sentence of up to 2.5 years.
Failure to Appear in the Second Degree
Under ARS 13-2506, if you fail to appear in connection with a misdemeanor charge, you can be charged with either a class 1 or class 2 misdemeanor. Class 1 misdemeanors carry a prison sentence of up to 6 months in addition to $2,500 in fines. A class 2 misdemeanor can result in a 4-month prison sentence and up to $750 in fines. If your court date was for misdemeanor underage drinking in Arizona, you’d likely be charged with failure to appear in the second degree.
Is Criminal Contempt a Misdemeanor or Felony in Arizona?
In Arizona, criminal contempt is a class 2 misdemeanor. Criminal contempt is very broadly defined in the Arizona Revised Statutes to include not only disobeying a lawful writ, process, order or judgment, but also any “act or thing therein or thereby forbidden” by a superior court. Those convicted of criminal contempt of court face $750 in fines and up to 4 months in prison.
Missed Court Date in Arizona? Contact Lerner and Rowe Law Group
Failure to appear in court in Arizona is its own criminal charge. However, it may also result in even harsher sentencing upon conviction of a pre-existing criminal charge. If you have missed a court date, an experienced Arizona criminal defense lawyer at Lerner and Rowe Law Group can help. We offer free consultations and affordable payment plans.
Visit one of our office locations in Phoenix or Tucson during our regular business hours, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. You can also reach us by phone, chat with a representative using our LiveChat feature, or submit your case details online 24/7. Contact us today!