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Video Transcribed: What do you do if you miss court in Oklahoma? I’m Oklahoma attorney James Wirth, and that’s the question that we have. What if, for whatever reason you miss court, what do you do? Let’s say you overslept or you miscalendared it or you forgot about it or your car broke down. Whatever the case is, you had a court date that was set and you failed to appear. So what do you do now?
Well, first off, hopefully, you had an attorney, that attorney did appear for you and got it taken care of. But that’s not the case then what happens when you fail to appear in a civil case if you’re a defendant, then you could get a default judgment granted against you. If you are a plaintiff in a civil case then you could have your case dismissed. In either case, you’re going to likely get a decision that is not on merit. So what do you want to do?
You want to file a motion to vacate. You want to make sure that you file it as quickly as possible. Definitely want to file it within 30 days of that court date or of that dismissal or default judgment being entered. If you file it within 30 days, then you have an excellent chance that that decision will be vacated and get the court date reset, and make sure that you appear. Because we have lots of history with the courts, lots of precedents that say that we do not want a decision that is not on the merits.
And we actually have a new case unpublished that recently came out for local court, Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals case number 119264 that goes through all of the history in the case law in Oklahoma that suggests that we need to have decisions on the merits. And if it is a motion for default that is granted because somebody failed to appear, a motion for default granted because somebody didn’t file an answer in the case, then it’s likely going to be vacated if you file a timely motion to vacate.
And it actually lists the things that we look at, these are the rules that the court looks at, and default judgments are not favored. A vacation of a default judgment is different from a vacation of a judgment where the parties had at least one opportunity to be heard on the merits. So were you heard on the merits? You failed to appear, doesn’t sound like it.
Three, judicial discretion to vacate a default judgment should always be exercised so as to promote the ends of justice. So again, the court is going to want a decision on the merits, not just because somebody failed to appear.
Four, a much stronger showing of abusive discretion must be made where a judgment has been set aside than where one has not. Again, that’s indicating that the appellate courts, the higher courts, are likely to reverse a case if the trial judge denies a motion to vacate, that was timely filed when there was not a decision on the merits.
All right. So that’s in a civil case. If you fail to appear in court, what you’re going to do, is contact an attorney. See if you can get into court as quickly as possible. Sometimes if you get with an attorney fast enough, we may be able to stop a default judgment from being entered. If not, then we want to file a motion to vacate within 30 days.
What if it’s a criminal case? All right. If you fail to appear in a criminal case then a warrant is going to issue for your arrest and notice is going to go to the bail bonds and they’re going to try to pick you up on that.
So what do you do if you fail to appear on a criminal case, obviously hopefully have an attorney that appeared for you that you can make contact with, and then can try to get that reset? We’d want to get you into court as soon as possible. We want to contact your bail bonds and let them know that you failed to appear, but it was an accident that you’re getting it resolved.
If you contact an attorney fast enough, you may be able to get it before the warrant has actually gone out, which simplifies the process. If the warrant has already gone out, the paperwork has been done, then you’re going to need your bail bondsman to appear at court with you and your attorney in order to see if they will reimburse the bond that prevents you from going back into custody for the failure to appear.
So if you fail to appear on a criminal case, get with an attorney immediately contact your bondsman immediately get before the judge with that attorney in a plan in place immediately, if it’s a civil case you fail to appear on, then get with an attorney, file a motion to vacate. If they filed a default judgment against you, or if they dismissed your case if you are the plaintiff and do so quickly, definitely within 30 days.
All right, if you have any other questions about the illegal matter in Oklahoma, you’re going to want to talk to an attorney about that, privately confidentially. To get that scheduled with an Oklahoma attorney in my office you go online tomakelaweasy.com.