Why it is important to go to court on your court dates: part two --- Class A and B misdemeanors
In this article I am going to run down what happens if you miss a court date on a Class A or Class B misdemeanor. I will talk about Travis County specifically and then in general terms about possibilities throughout the state of Texas.
None of the consequences of missing a court date on a Class A or Class B misdemeanor are good and they should be avoided at all costs. If you are facing emergency circumstances, you should contact your lawyer if you have one or the court you are supposed to report to if you do not have a lawyer and explain the circumstances. Simply not showing up will result in things that can lead to you spending more time in jail than necessary.
Bail Jumping and Failure to Appear: If you have been charged with a Class B or Class A misdemeanor and miss a court date, you could very well be charged with an additional Class A misdemeanor of Bail Jumping and Failure to Appear. The court staff has to go through a procedure to ensure you are indeed not present in order to charge you with this, but regardless of whether or not you are technically guilty, being charged with this will complicate your life. You will have a warrant out on the new charge of Bail Jumping and Failure to Appear and probably on the underlying original charge as well, and you are risking arrest on both. If you are arrested on both charges, even in Travis County it will be very unlikely you will get a personal bond. You will have to use a bail bondsman to post a surety bond on both cases, which costs you much more money than just bonding out on the original charge.
Being charged with Bail Jumping and Failure to Appear is not likely in Travis County except in one instance. This is only charged when you are given a cite and release – explained in other articles, this is when you are given a citation on a Class B or Class A misdemeanor instead of going to jail and given a court date to report in a Justice of the Peace court – and you do not show up. In this instance, the County Attorney will file a Bail Jumping and Failure to Appear charge and you will be expected to post bond on this and the original charge in order to bond out if arrested.
Bond Forfeiture: If you are out on bond for a Class A or Class B misdemeanor – either personal or surety bond – and you fail to appear for court, your posted bond will be “forfeited”. This means you no longer have a good bond. A warrant will be issued for your arrest.
In Travis County, the County Attorney will file a civil suit against you if you are out on personal bond for the full amount of the bond set when you were originally magistrated. You may get a default judgment against you if you do not file an answer to this civil suit. It may go to collections or be placed on your credit report. It is easy to settle these suits for much less than the full amount but you will still have to pay something. You may not be able to get the warrant withdrawn and get back on the court’s docket in good standing with a good bond if there is a civil suit. It is up to the court. Some will expect you to settle the civil suit first. If you are out on surety bond, the civil suit will be filed against your bail bondsman and in turn, your bail bondsman will seek to get the money they pay to settle it from you.
If you have a bond forfeiture and are arrested on the warrant that was issued, a new and higher bond will be set and you will not be eligible for personal bond. No judge except the no one presiding over your case will be inclined to release you except in rare circumstances – so if you are arrested on a weekend you will be there until Monday when the judges come back. You will have to hire an attorney except in rare circumstances to ask the judge to do a bond forfeiture set aside, reinstate your bond, release you on the reinstated bond, and put you back on the docket with another court date.
In some places around Texas, both a new Bail Jumping/Failure to Appear charge will be filed and a bond forfeiture will be entered. It is very complicated to sort this out and you may not have a method of being released except posting a new surety bond.
The moral of the story is: don’t miss court and if you do, tell the court your circumstances – which have to be an emergency – prior to not showing up. Don’t just throw your hands up and hope for the best. You will not like what happens.
If you have a bond forfeiture or warrants out on an original charge and Bail Jumping/Failure to Appear – call me today. I’m happy to help.