Missed Your Court Date? Here’s What You Can Do

Missed Your Court Date? Here’s What You Can Do
Tuesday, Feb 01, 2022
Suny Virk

Missing your court hearing can have both minor and significant consequences depending on the criminal charge you face. All you need to do in such a situation is be proactive and take quick action. Remember, you need to convince the judge before they decide that your reason is not acceptable.

The case will ultimately continue with your absence in the courtroom or be put in perpetual limbo, until you surrender yourself to the police. In this article, we will discuss what you, as an accused person can do to save yourself from major trouble if you miss any court date.

Possible Causes Of Missing Your Court:

There might be many reasons you missed your Court hearing - though this can be seen as severe carelessness! You could have simply forgotten, or your alarm didn’t go off, or some sort of traffic issues.  You could also be stuck at work or having medical trouble. Nonetheless, in an emergency, the Court does often take into account the possibilities that could exist.

For example, it’s possible that you changed your address around the same time the Court issued you a Summons to Court or other Court document requiring you to attend Court

In any event, you should act quickly and remedy the situation before things get worse. 

What Consequences Can You Face?

A bench warrant is generally issued when the accused misses the court. Once the warrant is executed (usually when you get pulled over and the police run a check), you will probably also face a new criminal charge - failure to attend (or re-attend) Court. Now you must deal with not only the underlying charge that brought you to Court in the first place, but also this new Criminal charge.  Generally, the Crown will request that a short period of custody is an appropriate sentence to failing to attend Court.  This would include a criminal record.

Another option for the Court and has been used more often since the arrival of COVID is to issue a bench warrant with discretion.  Essentially, the Court will adjourn the case to a new date and if you fail to attend on that date (or have a lawyer/agent attend on your behalf), then a full bench warrant can be issued.

What Can You Do:

Following proper legal procedures can save you from ending up in jail. There are many ways to maintain your release order (bail/recognizance), and avoid arrest/charge, even if you fail to appear in Court. Read below before you panic about what to do when you've missed your Court.

1. Pre-inform The Court Of The Absence:

Once option is to pre-inform the Court if you have some changes in routine due to which you might miss your Court appearance.  You could contact the Court or Duty Counsel who may be able to persuade the Judge on the next Court date to issue a bench warrant with discretion, under the circumstances.  The Judge would then put the matter over to a new date. It is better to get this done through a criminal lawyer who handles the types of cases.

2. Getting A Private Lawyer:

Having a private lawyer is always a good idea. Even after you’ve missed the Court date, you can have your lawyer call the Court and/or Police to persuade them not to execute the warrant (if it’s done soon enough).

Though you can also take these actions without a lawyer, we recommend that you consult with a private lawyer. This will likely give you your best chances to avoid being arrested and a new criminal charge laid.

3. Other Ways To Avoid Hassle By Yourself:

You could tackle the issue independently instead of getting a lawyer.  You may even be able to persuade the assistance of free duty counsel, depending on the policies of their office. Each Courthouse generally staffs duty counsel to assist individuals who do not have a lawyer. 

Put your best foot forward and bring all supporting documents or evidence that will show that you are telling the truth and that the reason for missing Court was understandable.

4. Plead Your Reason To The Judge:

If a bench warrant has been issued and you missed Court, you could go directly to Court that same day or sometimes in the morning.  Timing is everything.  When there is a break in the Court, you can ask to address the Court.  If the Judge permits you to speak (sometimes with the assistance of duty counsel), you may be able to plead your case.   In my experience, if you’re sincere and deferential, it will go a long way to avoiding a more complicated future in the criminal justice system.

Ultimately, there are many ways you can save yourself from the potentially harsh consequences of missing a Court date.  The best advice is to make sure you simply don’t do it.  It will make for a smoother process without putting sand into the gears of justice.

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