Failure to Appear (FTA) / Bench Warrant
What happens when you fail to appear?
You have failed to appear for a court date. What happens? The Failure to Appear commonly referred to as a FTA, guarantees that the Judge has issued the even more feared bench warrant. What do you do?
It’s best to always appear for your court hearings, no matter what the possible consequences. If you have already failed to appear there are options to restore your freedom!
Penalties for Failure to Appear
When a defendant fails to appear, the judge will issue a bench warrant. For a felony, the bench warrant is usually a no-bond warrant and for a misdemeanor the bench warrant is usually a much higher amount then the original bond amount warrant that requires the defendant to immediately be taken into custody. Once a warrant is issued you can be picked up almost anywhere.
Florida Statute makes it a separate first-degree misdemeanor ($1000 and a year in county jail) to fail to appear in court after posting bail in any misdemeanor case. If the person fails to appear for any felony charge, then the offense can be charged as a separate third-degree felony ($5000 and up to 5 years in prison).
The best option available to you is to immediately seek assistance from an experienced criminal attorney. Your lawyer will review your case and help determine your options as well as guide you through the process.
Hire a lawyer to avoid a FTA
If you are supposed to appear in court, speak to an attorney who can represent you throughout the process and help keep you from facing a Bench Warrant and keep you informed of what is going on in the case. No showing up only makes a bad situation worse. When I am representing you or a loved one, I can go to Court on your behalf and keep you from facing that FTA. When authorized, I can negotiate an amicable resolution to your case. For misdemeanor offenses in County Court, a Plea in Absentia (without you present) can be entered. On rare occasions, a Plea in Absentia will be accepted in Circuit Court for felonies.
Different jurisdictions handle FTAs and bench warrants differently. There are often ways to avoid going to jail on a bench warrant if you discover the FTA before being arrested. BUT you must be proactive! There are several choices you have if you discover the Bench Warrant before you arrest.
1. You can choose to surrender at the jail, at which time you’ll be placed in custody. If there is a bond, you can post it and be released. If it is a no bond, you will appear in front of the jail judge who may give you a bond or not.
2. Rather than immediately go to jail, your attorney can file a motion to surrender, which would allow you to surrender to a courtroom instead of directly at jail. Sometimes the bond can be addressed and hopefully lowered.
3. Another option is for your lawyer to file a motion to recall the Bench Warrant and dismiss the failure to appear and request a new court date.
Other Adverse Consequences
The worst thing a defendant can do is remain in a failure to appear status.
The consequences of having an outstanding Bench Warrant include:
• Suspension of your Florida DL indefinitely;
• Trouble renting a house or apartment;
• Being ineligible to collect government benefits such as SSI, unemployment compensation, or financial aid;
• Difficulty finding or keeping a job because the bench warrant
will show up in a basic background check;
• Forfeiture of the bail bond premium and the security which was pledged or given for your release from jail. Perhaps there is a felony conviction somewhere in your past. Maybe you think it was a minor felony as felonies go, and you served your time and can move on with your life. Unfortunately, in the society we live in, the reality is that something like a criminal conviction follows you everywhere, even if it is just a misdemeanor. You may not think it’s worth the time, money and effort to get your record expunged. If that’s true, here are five reasons why you will definitely want to reconsider.
If you’ve ever filled out a job application, you probably remember the section where they ask if you’ve ever been arrested or convicted of a crime. This always creates an awkward situation for someone with a criminal record. They can either answer truthfully and risk not getting the job, or lie and risk being in violation of the law once again. If you successfully expunge your record, you should be able to truthfully write “no” in answer to that question.
Some loan agencies think that a criminal conviction is an indication that someone is less likely to meet their financial obligations. That means you may be facing prohibitive interest rates or be unable to get a loan at all. That means difficulty buying a car, a home, or paying for an education. Combine that with difficulty getting a job and you could be in a very tough situation.
Have you ever considered adopting a child? Do you want to adopt one right now? If you do, you may want to look into getting your record expunged. 15 states currently make it illegal for someone with a criminal record to adopt children. You should note that in most if not all cases, criminal convictions involving offenses against minors cannot be expunged, so if you have been involved in a crime involving children or a sex crime, you will almost certainly never be able to adopt a child.
4. Peace of Mind
Although there are many other reasons why expunging your criminal record is definitely to your advantage, the most important one might be your own peace of mind. While you have that mark on your record, it’s hard to feel truly free. When you clear your record you have a clean slate. You can feel like a truly contributing member of society, just as entitled to the rights and privileges of a citizen as anyone else around you. Even if you’ve taken your punishment for your offense, it’s sometimes hard to feel like it’s completely behind you while your criminal record is still out there.
5. Another great reason to get your criminal record expunged is that it can be a lot easier than you might think. You don’t have to hire a lawyer or spend days hunting down the right forms and figuring out where to send them. ClearUpMyRecord.com can do all of that for you. The process is simple. Just set up an account and take the free eligibility check to see if you are eligible for expungement. If you are, you can hire ClearUpMyRecord.com to take you through the process. You’ll get an application kit with instructions on how to fill out those forms and where they should be sent. Then all you have to do is wait for a response from the government agency that handles expungement. You may have to appear in court, but once that’s done, if the judge deems your case is valid, you can be free and clear and ready to get on with your life.
A family member, friend, or co-working finding out about your arrest.
A new love interest locating potential embarrassing information.
Your boss finding out before a potential promotion.
Someone wanting to hurt you by posting embarrassing information all over the web.
You Are Not Alone
We have represented hundreds of people who find out that they have a bench warrant, or those constantly looking over their shoulder for fear of untimely arrest with the slightest interaction (friendly or unfriendly) with law enforcement; or those who have been arrested because of a bench warrant that they didn’t know they had.
If you or a loved one failed to appear in court, call us right now (321) 985-0025. We’ll talk about where, when and why you missed court; we’ll talk about whether it was for a misdemeanor, a felony or for a traffic offense; and, if the options are available to you, we’ll talk about the best possible strategy maintain your freedom, to dismiss the FTA, recall the bench warrant, and get the bail bond reinstated.
Whether you are facing an FTA / bench warrant in Brevard County or any where in the State of Florida.
You'll Get Caught Eventually
Failures to Appear and Bench Warrants never go away and follow you forever. Many clients formerly lived in Florida years ago and have sort of forgotten about an old Bench Warrant. Those folks then decide to go on a cruise leaving out of a Florida port like Port Canaveral. During the boarding process they are arrested and brought to the Brevard County Jail (BCJ). They miss their cruise and start to deal with their long-forgotten Bench Warrant.
Do not let this happen to you! We are always available to talk about what we can do to minimize the damage after being caught, or to avoid most, if not all, of the dire consequences of having an FTA and a Bench Warrant.
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