What Happens If You Miss a Court Date?
If you are charged with a traffic or criminal offence in Queensland, you will almost always need to attend court. But what happens if you miss your court date?
My name is Dave, I’m a Brisbane criminal lawyer and that’s what we’re going to be discussing right now.
Modern life is pretty busy nowadays. We’re running around, trying to do our jobs, looking after kids, it’s nonstop. It’s easy to miss an appointment every now and then.
But one appointment you don’t want to miss is your court date. If you do, the consequences can be serious.
If you are due to appear in court and it’s for just a very minor offence, such as a speeding ticket, the magistrate might just deal with it in your absence. This means that the magistrate will find you guilty and impose a punishment even though you’re not actually in court. You will then receive a letter from the courthouse telling you what the outcome was.
However, if it is for anything even slightly serious, the magistrate can issue an arrest warrant. This means that the police have the power to go out looking for you and, if they find you, they can arrest you and make you appear in court. If this happens when the court is closed, you might then have to spend the night or even a weekend in a police station or watch-house until the courthouse opens.
Once court opens, you’ll need to explain to the magistrate why you missed your court appearance. If the magistrate accepts your reason, they will cancel the warrant and the whole thing goes away. However, if the magistrate does not accept your reason, you will be punished. This could be anything from a small fine for a first offence to a sentence of actual imprisonment if your history is bad enough.
In addition to being given a punishment, you may also need to convince the magistrate that you deserve to be given bail again.
So what should you do if you’re worried about missing a court date?
Well, let’s first look at what you should do if you think you’re going to miss a court date. This could be because you’re physically or mentally unwell but you know that your court date is coming up.
In that case, you should contact the court registry and explain what has happened. They will tell you what your options are and will probably tell you to email the court explaining why you won’t be at court. Hopefully, the magistrate will accept this and will give you another chance to appear at a later date. But, there is a chance that they won’t accept your explanation, especially if you have missed previous court dates or if the magistrate made a specific order requiring your personal appearance at court that day. They will then issue a warrant for your arrest.
What about if it’s too late and you’ve already missed your court date? For example, you might have been so intoxicated when you were arrested that you actually didn’t realise that you had been given a court date. Believe it or not, this does happen.
If you’ve already missed your court date, you should call a criminal lawyer for advice straight away.
When I get a call from someone who has missed court, the first thing I do is to contact the relevant courthouse to find out what happened. In particular, I want to find out if a warrant has already been issued because that usually determines what happens next.
Once I’ve found out what happened at court, I can then provide legal advice about what needs to be done next.
If you have any documents which confirm the reason why you missed court, such as a doctor’s certificate, you should also make sure that you hang onto those documents. They can be presented in court as proof of why you missed court.
Failing to turn up to court is serious and can lead to jail time. Don’t take the risk. If you think you might be in trouble, get legal advice straight away. It’s the best way to avoid further problems with the courts.
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Until next time, stay safe.