No matter what the reason, missing a court date in New Jersey is a serious matter. Once a summons date has passed the issue is escalated. Consequences include a possible suspension of driving privileges, the issuance of an arrest warrant, revocation of bail, and potentially the right to have one’s case heard. Here is what a person can expect should they fail to respond to a summons or appear in court on a scheduled court date in New Jersey.
Traffic Violation Cases. If this is the first missed court date, the court will usually send out a failure to appear notice. The notice will contain instructions for what to do now that the court date has passed. A person who does not comply with these instructions will likely have a warrant issued for his/her arrest. The NJ Motor Vehicle Commission will also be notified of the missed court date, which could result in license suspension.
Parking Ticket Cases. The court will send out a failure to appear notice. However, a person with two or more tickets in the same jurisdiction could face an arrest warrant even if he/she complies with the directions in the notice. There are exceptions to this rule. Meanwhile, the vehicle’s registrant may lose driving privileges for failing to pay tickets or appearing to fight them in municipal court.
Other Municipal/Civil Offenses. New Jersey law allows cases to proceed even without a defendant’s appearance. This means missing a court date on some offenses forfeits one’s right to defend oneself. Further, even if the case does not involve a motor vehicle offense, the person may lose driving privileges. It’s also likely that an arrest warrant will be issued. If the charge in question is a disorderly persons offense, then the person can be charged and convicted of an additional disorderly persons offense for missing the court date, potentially increasing any jail sentence and/or fines.
Superior Court Offenses. The consequence of failing to appear in Superior Court are the most serious. Firstly, the person forfeits the right to request bail. Secondly, as in other matters, an arrest warrant may be issued and driving privileges can be suspended. Thirdly, a conviction for failing to appear in NJ Superior Court can result in additional penalties similar to those of the underlying crime. For example, for fourth-degree crimes, missing a court date is also fourth degree crime punishable by up to 18 months in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. Failing to appear in response to third-degree crimes or greater is a third-degree crime, and can result in three to five years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines.
What Are the Defenses for Failure to Appear in Court?
A judge can convict someone with failing to appear only if:
- There is sufficient evidence that the person had proper notice of the trial date, and
- If the court determines that the person intentionally did not come to court.
As a defense against a charge of failing to appear, a person may present a valid reason for not showing up for the trial or hearing. Some potentially acceptable reasons include:
- Not being notified of the court date and time;
- Having a previously scheduled court appearance;
- A serious illness or accident;
- A natural disaster (hurricane, blizzard, etc.);
- A death in the family.
Will a Missed Court Date Show up in a Background Check?
When a person missed a court date, there is a chance the court will issue a bench warrant. This authorizes police to make an immediate arrest. Bench warrants are part of court records and will likely show up on a background check. Moreover, if the person is found guilty of failing to appear in criminal matters, this conviction will show up in a background check—even if the defendant is acquitted of the underlying charges themselves.
Will I Go to Jail for Missing a Court Date in New Jersey?
For traffic and parking matters, jail time is uncommon except that if a person is picked up on a bench warrant he will normally be jailed until bail is posted. A missed court date for Municipal or Superior Court can result in additional jail time and fines on top of those associated with the crime itself.
What is Bail Jumping?
The term bail jumping refers to when a person has missed a court date after being released on bail. The consequences of bail jumping are essentially the same as missing a court date for a criminal charge. Bail jumping is a bona fide criminal offense in New Jersey.
Will the Judge Be More Strict With Me Because I Missed a Court Date?
Most likely. Judges are human beings and will not take kindly to having wasted time waiting for someone who no-shows a serious matter like a court date. Even a person with a solid defense to the charges will suddenly find themselves at a disadvantage when finally put in front of the judge if they missed a court date. This does not mean that a conviction is inevitable; rather, it means that a more serious defense strategy is required. It is always a good idea to hire an attorney when facing any kind of traffic or criminal charge in New Jersey; however, when a person misses a court date, the assistance of legal counsel becomes even more critical.
What Should I Do Now That I Missed My Court Date?
If you or someone you love has missed a court date for a traffic or criminal offense in New Jersey, it is imperative that you contact an attorney for advice. An attorney will know how best to present the circumstances regarding the missed appearance so as to minimize or avoid any resulting penalties. The attorney can also provide a strong defense of the underlying charges and increase the chances of an acquittal or reduction to a lesser charge.