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What Happens if I Miss my Court Date in Tennessee?

Failure to appear is when person charged with a crime is required to appear in General Sessions Court, Criminal Court or Circuit Court; but they failed to do so. Appearance in court is usually required for all criminal cases in Tennessee. In some instances, the Judge may double your bail bond or issue a capias if you fail to appear in court. A capias is a legal term which requires a law enforcement officer to take the body of the Defendant into custody.


Common failure to appear situations:

  1. Failure to appear at an arraignment
  2. Failure to appear at a discussion date
  3. Failure to appear before a preliminary hearing
  4. Failure to appear at trial
  5. Failure to appear at a sentencing hearing

Consequences of Failing to Appear in Court

Failing to appear in court is a crime under Tennessee law. It is a Class E Felony. A sentence received for a violation of failure to appear in court can be ordered to be served consecutively to any sentence received for the offense for which the Defendant failed to appear.


The consequences for failing to appear may include the following:

  • The Judge may issue a capias for failing appear. That means if you are stopped by the police they will run a check on your I.D. and you may be arrested.
  • Your bail bond may be revoked and you are ordered to remain in custody until your case is resolved
  • Additional charges may be brought

What Can you do if you Miss Court?

First, contact a lawyer immediately. They may have suggestions on what can be done in the particular jurisdiction in Tennessee. In the General Sessions Court for Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee the General Sessions Court Judges may enter an order setting aside your failure appear or failure to be booked. Normally, your attorney would contact the Judge's office for the court to enter an order setting aside the increase in bond capias. You must have a good excuse for missing court.

In the Criminal Court for Davidson County there is no set procedure for re-docketing the cases. However, your lawyer can contact the court and attempt to re-docket the matter and the court may question you on why failed to appear. In some cases the court could set aside the copies in open court bond.


Case Study

I recently handled a case in Nashville, TN where an individual was charged with Driving Under the Influence. Another lawyer stupidly advised he should not show up for court. A capias was issued. Four years later, he applied for a job with a major company. During the hiring process, a criminal background check revealed he had an arrest warrant for DUI. We were able to get the arrest warrant for failure to appear set aside by the court. Later, the DUI was reduced to reckless driving. His job was saved.

If you have any other questions about what you can do if you missed your court date in Tennessee, please feel free to contact us at 615-686-2115 or visit our website at www.mckinneylawfirm.com.

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