What Happens if I Fail to Appear in Court?
Failure to appear is when a 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.
What Is Capias Charge?
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 that requires a law enforcement officer to take the body of the Defendant into custody.
You may be charged if you fail to appear in TN:
- At an arraignment
- At a discussion date
- Before a preliminary hearing
- At trial
- At a sentencing hearing
Consequences of Failure to Appear TN Charges
Failing to appear in court is a crime under Tennessee law. It is a Class E Felony. A sentence received for the charge can be ordered to be served consecutively to any sentence received for the offense for which the Defendant failed to appear.
The consequences may include the following:
- The Judge may issue a capias for the charge. 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 Do I Do if I Missed a Court Date?
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 charge. 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 an open court bond.
I recently handled a case in Nashville, Tennessee, 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 the failure charge set aside by the court. Later, the DUI was reduced to reckless driving. His job was saved.