Blowing off a court hearing in a criminal matter is not something you should do, or even consider. Failure to appear in criminal court is a serious charge. It’s a violation of Texas Penal Code 38.10, which defines the crime this way:

“A person lawfully released from custody, with or without bail, on condition that he subsequently appear commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly fails to appear in accordance of his release.”

If you miss a court date, the judge may issue a warrant for your arrest and your bail will be forfeited. You could also be charged with the additional crime of failure to appear. The potential penalties for the failure to appear charge are based on the severity of the original crime you were charged with:

  • If the original offense was a felony, failure to appear is a third degree felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
  • If the original offense was a Class A misdemeanor (such as a second offense DWI or assault with bodily injury), failure to appear is a Class A misdemeanor. It is punishable by one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
  • If the original offense was a Class C misdemeanor, failure to appear is also a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a $500 fine.

Defenses to failure to appear charges

Not showing up in criminal court for ANY reason can result in a warrant for your arrest and an additional charge of failure to appear. But there are potential defenses. Texas Penal Code 38.10 explicitly states that having a “reasonable excuse” for failing to appear is a defense to the charge. For example, if you were on the way to court and you got stuck in traffic or your car broke down, this could be seen as a reasonable excuse. As the definition of the crime states, the actor must “intentionally or knowingly” have failed to appear. An experienced defense attorney can help you make that case.

What to do if you have missed a court date

Not addressing your problem could result in your being arrested and taken to jail while you are driving to work, taking your children to school or anytime you are out and about.

If you failed to appear in court for any reason, you should speak to a defense attorney as soon as possible. Taking proactive action could help you avoid the additional charge of failure to appear.