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I missed my court date. What do I do?

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Making sure you are on time to court is essential. If you fail to appear at the time and date specified by the Court, there are serious consequences.

Civil Proceedings

In civil court (non-criminal cases) if you fail to appear for a hearing you could lose your entire case. If you are a no-show in court, the other party could be granted a "default judgment" against you. This means they win their case simply because you did not show up to contest it. Even if you had a strong defense or counter-argument, because you did not show up to court, they win.

Proper notice required

However, if you can show you did not have proper notice for the hearing, or some other excusable neglect, the court will likely set aside its prior order. But if the opposing party can prove you received notice and willfully chose not to participate in the lawsuit, the decision will almost never be reversed upon appeal. You could be stuck not only losing the lawsuit, but paying for costs and attorneys fees because you chose not to go to court.

Setting aside an order

If you missed your court date, contact an attorney immediately. You'll need an attorney to assist you in filing a motion to set aside the court's prior order.

Contempt proceedings

If you missed your court date in a contempt proceeding, where the other side is alleging you failed to pay child support or failed to do some other court-required action, your failure to appear could result in an arrest warrant being issued for you.

Criminal Proceedings

If you've been given a citation or have a pending court date for a criminal offense and fail to appear at the date and time specified, there will be negative consequences. If the notice or summons you've been given states your court date starts at 9:00am, you will need to be in the courtroom before 9:00am. Arrive early. Account for traffic. Do not wait in the hall. Be inside the courtroom where you can see the judge and hear your name called.

The judge will go through an initial docket call of all the cases set for that date and time. If you are not present during that initial call, many judges will immediately issue an arrest warrant (called a capias) for you due to your failure to appear. Others may wait until second call. If you've bonded out of jail, your bond will likely be forfeited and revoked as well, and you may have to remain in custody until your case is completely finished, which could be weeks or months.

Offense of Failure to Appear

You could also be charged with the crime of Failure to Appear under Tennessee law. If the underlying charge against you is a Class A Misdemeanor or a Felony, a conviction for Failure to Appear is a Class E Felony. If you are convicted of this offense, you can be ordered to serve your sentence consecutive to any sentence you receive for the underlying charge.

Being charged with Failure to Appear could happen at any stage in the proceeding in which you miss your court date including your arraignment date, settlement date, preliminary hearing date, trial date, and sentencing date.

What do I do if I miss my court date?

Contact an attorney immediately. Each county and court has different procedures for resolving a missed court date. In Nashville your case could be handled quickly by your attorney requesting an order setting aside the capias issued against you. However, you must have a reasonable excuse. If you do nothing, your problem will not go away and the capias will be spotted during any background check. A warrant for Failure to Appear will also be spotted, and you run the risk of these items landing you in jail if you are ever pulled over by the police.

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Saenz & Maniatis PLLC
2874 Elm Hill Pike
Nashville, TN 37214

Phone: 615-366-1211
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