Failure to Appear in Court

Failure to Appear in Court, South Carolina

What happens if you fail to appear in criminal court?  It depends on whether your case is in a magistrate or Municipal court or a Circuit Court otherwise known as general sessions.  As a general rule it is always advisable to appear in court when required.

Hi, my name is Dale Savage and I’m a criminal defense attorney here in Charleston, SC and today we’re talking about what can happen if you fail to appear in court.

There are many reasons why someone doesn’t show up for court.  It could be you just forgot, or that you did not know you had to appear, or it may be an attempt to delay the case and a belief that the case will not go forward if you’re not there.

Two Court Systems

Let’s talk about the two different court systems and the different outcomes for non-appearance.

Municipal/Magistrate Court

In Municipal or magistrate Court your appearance is not always mandatory or required.  How do you know if this applies to you?  The Uniform traffic ticket that you received from the police officer has a section where the violation is listed, typically in the middle of the ticket.  In that section it will state Court appearance required – Yes or No.  One of those should be circled.

What’s vital for you to understand is that just because your appearance is not required does not mean that you shouldn’t go to court?  Why is that?  You will be convicted and fined even when your appearance is not mandatory.  If you do appear in court, sometimes good things happen.  You may be offered alternatives to pleading guilty, you may be offered a reduction in the speeding violation which reduces your fine and the points on your driving record.  These things save you money.

When you fail to appear in Municipal Court and it’s mandatory, you will most likely be found guilty and a fined without any reduction in the charge or fine amount or the possibility of getting the charge dismissed for completing a court ordered program.

Worst case scenario is that the Court will issue a bench warrant for your arrest for failing to appear at a mandatory court hearing.

Circuit Court – General Sessions

When it comes to Circuit Court in South Carolina all court hearings are mandatory unless you are excused from the hearing.  What happens if you fail to appear?  The court will most likely issue a bench warrant for your arrest and when you are eventually detained by police you will need to appear in front of the judge and explain why you felt it was not necessary to appear in front of them.  The judge will make one of two decisions – rescind the bench warrant and you will be released from jail or you will be taken back to the jail and stay there until your case is resolved.  Because your freedom is on the line its usually best to retain an attorney to represent you at the hearing and for the remainder of your case.

Charleston, SC Criminal Defense Attorney

So, if have any questions about an upcoming court appearance, please call me at (843) 530-7813.  I hope this video was helpful and thanks for watching.

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