Tulsa Attorney BlogWhat Happens if You Don’t Show Up to Court

It’s Very Unwise To Miss Court

Video Transcribed: My name is Brian L. Jackson. I’m a Tulsa lawyer working with the Wirth Law Office. And I want to talk to you guys today about what happens if you don’t show up to court. In addition to being an attorney, I also do serve as the municipal judge in Chelsea. So I saw this from both sides of the fence.

In the context of criminal court, whether you’re talking district court or whether you’re talking about a municipal court, including, by the way, courts not a record. If you fail to appear when you’re ordered to appear for a criminal matter, what will happen is that the court will issue something called a bench warrant. A bench warrant is a board for your arrest and detention pending your appearance before that court.

Now what’ll happen is, and this is what happens in my court, is that I will get a list of people who failed to appear for the last hearing together. And the court clerk will prepare arrest warrants for each and every one of them. And then they’re presented to me for my signature. And there’s typical, there’s going to be a bond set. Many times it’s a cash bond, which means that you can’t hire a bondsman. You have to pay in cash. That’s not always the case, but it can be. And you’ll have to either hire a bondsman or pay money, you get out of jail.

In Oklahoma, the bond is basically, exists for the purposes of securing your appearance in court. And when you fail to appear in court after being ordered, the court will order a higher bond in the hopes of either holding you in jail or at least giving you a very good incentive to show up next time. It’s routine that district court judges will triple your bond or raise it even more for a failure to appear.

So it’s very important to show up in criminal court if you’re ordered to be there unless you have an attorney and that attorney has specifically advised you that you don’t need to be there. And it’s usually a good practice to be there anyway even if they tell you, you don’t have to. Because if something goes wrong, like for example, the casualties do happen, mistakes going to happen. And if your attorney for some reason, doesn’t make it to court on time or it doesn’t make it to court at all and you’re not there, you’re the one that’s going to get the warrant, not the attorney.

So a good practice is if you know you have a ticket, if you know have a charge pending, go to court. Even if you think it’s hopeless and you think you’re going to get screwed, skipping court isn’t going to help the problem. It’ll make it worse. Because, and you miss court and disappear long enough, you could get felony bail jumping. But seriously, if you’re ordered to go to court, go to court because the consequences are quite severe.

wirth lawAnd if that warrant is issued and you get stopped for a traffic stop, you’re going to jail even if it’s something stupid, like a tail light out. Because when the police stop you and they run your name through their computer, if you pop with a bench warrant, you’re going to jail. And if they catch you on a weekend or they say it’s a Friday night, like say you’re on your way home from the bar and they stop you, you may sit in jail over the weekend until you can get arraign and released. Particularly, if you’re talking about a cash bond. And the judge is not going to be in any hurry to sign an order for your release if you’ve already skipped court.

So seriously, don’t miss court. Now, what about civil court? What happens if you miss a civil court date? A couple of things could potentially happen depending on the nature of your case and depending on the judge’s temperament.

One major risk with not coming to civil court is getting defaulted. If it’s a docket setting or it’s set for hearing and you’ve been served and you don’t show up, the judge can just enter an order right there. If the other side shows up. You get defaulted on the merits. In other words, the judge will make a default decision on the merits of your case and decide, well, okay, this is X because the other side didn’t show up to contest it.

And that can come with a variety of consequences, including it costs you money, it could cost you rights, it can cost you attorney’s fees. So don’t miss court. I did a video once before about what you should do if you can’t make it. But I will briefly sum that up by saying if you know you’re not going to make it to court, make sure you tell somebody and take care of that.

I mean, if you’re pro se called the court. If you’re represented, call your lawyer. And if you can’t get ahold of your lawyer, call the court. Make sure they know that you’re trying to get there and you’re running late, or that something happened that prevented you from being there. Don’t get defaulted.

And if it’s criminal court, you really do need to make sure they know, so you don’t get arrested. And then as soon as you possibly can get yourself there, get yourself there. And understand too, with criminal court, there’s a shortlist of reasons you can get away with calling and saying, hey, I can’t make it. And I mean, a really shortlist.

I mean, and we’re talking like a medical emergency or your car has blown up on you or some kind of really serious situation. And probably if your car goes bust, you better have your phone handy and call for a ride. Be late. Don’t show. Because they don’t mess around and you will get a warrant. And you will go to jail if you get arrested on that warrant.

In civil court, you may get a little more leeway, but you could still get defaulted. And the other thing is, even if you’re not defaulted, if the court gets the idea that you’re jerking them around and trying to be cute, you could be sanctioned.

And what I mean by that is the court may order you to pay the other party’s attorney’s fees for they’re having to show up and waste their time. And that can get expensive pretty quickly. You can be talking about a couple of grand, depending on how long they were stuck there. So it’s very unwise to miss court. And even if it’s something you think you don’t care about, like a protective order, you should still show up even if you’re planning to stipulate. Because again, you don’t want to get sanctioned attorney’s fees for failure to appear. So it’s a big deal. Come to court.

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