Failure to Appear
If you're one of the many visitors to the Emerald Coast and specifically Panama City Beach, you may not be very concerned about the citation you received from law enforcement. You may be thinking that it is like a parking ticket and you can ignore it, especially if you live in a different state. You may be telling yourself that it is just a piece of paper for underage drinking. They can’t expect me to come all the way back to Florida just for a silly ticket. What’s the worst that can happen, I get an additional fine in the mail?
Unfortunately, those assumptions are wrong. Very wrong. If you have been given a citation, perhaps from the State Division of Alcohol Beverages and Tobacco, and it says Notice to Appear that means you have an open active case against you and that you are required to appear in court on the date set out in the citation. What happens if you do not show up? The court will find that you Failed to Appear and issue what is called a bench warrant. The Bay County Clerk’s Office takes this very seriously. This excerpt is taken straight from the Clerk’s website:
What will happen if I fail to appear?
Any Defendant who fails to appear as required by the Court may have his or her bail revoked and a warrant/capias issued for his/her arrest. (link provided below)
Consequences of a Warrant
What is a bench warrant? A bench warrant allows police to arrest you, whenever they find you and take you to jail. Even for a very minor infraction, like underage drinking, the failure to appear could lead to you spending time behind bars. And because you have already skipped a court date, you will most likely spend the night in jail until you can be brought before a judge. What’s more, because failure to appear for a court date is a crime in and of itself, the court can find you guilty of failing to appear, even if your original charges are later dismissed.
What if I live outside of Florida, a bench warrant won’t hurt me in my home state will it? Yes. If you are pulled over for a simple traffic stop the bench warrant can pop up. The warrant will show up on background checks when you apply for a job. Having a warrant can also lead to the loss of government benefits such as financial aid. It can also lead to the suspension of your driving privileges in your home state.
What to Do. Getting Rid of the FTA and Warrant
If you have skipped a court date that you were required to attend a bench warrant may not yet have been issued. The warrant will be issued but there is normally a lag time between your absence and the time that the judge issues the warrant. Our office can represent you through this process and help you avoid the negative consequences associated with Failing to Appear. Often times we can resolve the matter for less than the cost of returning to Florida. If you would like to schedule a free consultation call our office at (850) 763-3999 or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment.