Being charged with a crime is a very serious issue, and showing up to court is not optional. While some criminal defendants are often released on bail before their trials and various other hearings, bail is granted on the condition that defendants show up for court. Failing to appear might have harsh consequences.
Failing to appear in criminal court in New Jersey presents a laundry list of problems. Defendants who fail to show up for court could be arrested again, have their bail revoked, and face criminal penalties for bail jumping. With that being said, each case is different, and defendants might face different consequences depending on the nature of their case.
If you are tangled up in the criminal justice system and fail to appear at a court hearing, you might be in trouble. Call our Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers right away for help. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 for a free case review to get started.
Can I Be Jailed for Failing to Appear in Court in New Jersey?
You could be jailed for failing to appear in criminal court in New Jersey. However, whether you go to jail depends on what kind of hearing you missed and your underlying criminal charges. Our New Jersey criminal defense lawyers can help you.
First, you could be jailed because missing a court date can lead to your bail being revoked. Without bail, you will be sent back to jail to await trial. Whether your bail is revoked is up to the judge in your case. If your case involves serious underlying criminal offenses, the judge might not exercise leniency and revoke your bail.
You might also be jailed because of criminal charges for bail jumping. Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:29-7, skipping bail is a criminal offense, and your charges depend on the underlying charges in your case. For example, if you failed to appear in criminal court for third-degree crime charges or higher, your bail jumping charges will also be charged as a third-degree crime and punished by at least 3 but no more than 5 years in prison. The amount of jail or prison time you face depends on your case.
Can I Be Fined for Failing to Appear in Court in New Jersey?
You can be fined for failing to appear in court, usually as part of the penalties for bail jumping. The amount of your fine depends on how you are charged with bail jumping. If you are charged with a third-degree crime for bail jumping, the fine is $15,000. For bail jumping charged as a fourth-degree crime, you face a fine of $10,000. Talk to our New Jersey criminal defense attorneys to determine what kind of fine you might face.
Fines might not be imposed in every failure to appear. If a person is not arrested but instead receives a summons to appear in court, bail and bail jumping are not relevant issues. Instead, a failure to appear might result in a bench warrant for the defendant’s arrest, but other criminal penalties and fines are not necessarily involved. Even so, you should have an attorney on your side just in case.
What Are Valid Reasons for Failing to Appear in Court?
Criminal defendants are required to show up for court. Courts are often unwilling to entertain excuses like oversleeping or bad traffic. Despite defendants’ best efforts, sometimes forces beyond their control get in the way and cause them to miss court. Contact our New Jersey criminal defense lawyers for assistance if you believe you have a valid excuse for missing a court date.
A valid excuse might be something completely beyond your control. For example, if you are driving to court in the morning and are struck by another car, you might have had to go to the hospital and miss your court date. Another example might be a sudden death in your family. A judge might be more understanding if an immediate family member passed away the morning you were supposed to be in court.
As you can no doubt tell, the valid excuses for missing court tend to be a bit extreme. Defendants are expected to be at their hearings no matter what, barring only very exceptional circumstances. Issues like not having a ride, not having childcare, your car breaking down, or simply forgetting the court date are usually unacceptable. If an emergency causes you to miss court, contact your attorney immediately so they can inform the court of your situation and request a continuance.
What Is the Difference Between New Jersey Municipal Court and New Jersey Superior Court?
The court system in New Jersey is large and complex. Two important courts in New Jersey are the Municipal and Superior Courts. Our Ocean City, NJ criminal defense attorneys have experience handling cases in both courts and are prepared to assist you.
Municipal Court handles a wide variety of cases, although most are less severe. These are courts of limited jurisdiction and handle issues like traffic violations, parking tickets, and minor criminal offenses. For example, a non-violent offense like vandalism or writing a bad check would end up in Municipal Court. Juries are not used in Municipal Courts, and only judges hear cases. A Municipal Court has jurisdiction only over cases that occur within its municipality.
Superior Court is divided into criminal, civil, and family courts. If your criminal offense does not fall under the Municipal Court’s jurisdiction, it will likely end up in Superior Court. This court has trials for nearly all kinds of criminal offenses. From disorderly persons offenses up to serious indictable crimes, numerous criminal trials are heard in Superior Court. Many Superior Court trials are conducted with juries, although bench trials with just a judge are possible.
Should I Contact an Attorney After Failing to Appear in Court?
If you fail to appear in court, you should immediately contact an attorney. There is a good chance that a bench warrant has been issued for your arrest. You might also face serious penalties like jail time and fines. It is best to consult with an attorney about your situation before approaching the courts. Our Sea Isle City criminal defense lawyers can help you arrange a new court date and hopefully avoid being arrested or thrown in jail.
Call Our New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorneys for Help
Many defendants miss court dates due to honest mistakes or circumstances beyond their control. Our New Jersey criminal defense lawyers can help you get back on track after missing a court hearing. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 for a free case evaluation.