If you have been charged with criminal activity and you are out on bail or awaiting a resolution to your case, you will typically have a few very important dates to keep track of in order to present your case and begin your court proceedings. As part of the process, you have a duty to appear before the court and plead your case at your designated court dates.
Missing a court date can be seriously detrimental to your continued freedom during your trial and may even have a negative impact on the final ruling. It’s critical to keep your court dates as much as possible, and if you miss them, get the help of a criminal defense attorney right away to mitigate any potential repercussions.
What Happens if You Skip Municipal Court?
The severity of the penalties for skipping a court date depends on many factors, but it’s key to consider where your case is being tried — New Jersey’s municipal court or a superior court. In municipal court, if you fail to appear on your scheduled day in court, the judge may issue a “failure to appear” notice.
This could lead to a simple rescheduling of your case for a future date, but the judge could also decide to issue a warrant for your arrest. If your date is rescheduled, the judge will re-list the case. When you do appear before the court, either as a result of a rescheduled date or an arrest, you will have to provide an explanation for skipping your original date.
If your reason for skipping court is not a valid emergency, the judge will likely issue a nominal contempt fine, which will be paid at the end of the case along with any other fees or fines incurred. The judge might also choose to forfeit your bail, so you will need to come up with an additional amount to re-post bail or spend the rest of the time in jail until your case is completed.
What Happens if You Skip Superior Court?
Failing to make a scheduled appearance in superior court can be much more serious than a missed municipal court appearance. Bail posted in superior court for an indictable offense can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, and defendants who post bail and then fail to show up in court do not usually receive any leniency from the judge.
Skipping superior court typically leads to the automatic issuance of an arrest warrant, unless your attorney can provide a compelling reason for your absence. A medical emergency or any other excuse for missing superior court must be supported by paperwork and documentation.
How Many Times?
Once is enough for a person to be charged with “bail jumping” for his or her willful failure to make it to court. Bail jumping is graded based on the crime for which someone failed to appear. For instance, if the individual failed to appear for a fourth-degree crime, bail jumping is considered a disorderly persons offense that is punishable by up to 6 months in jail and up to a $1,000. For third-degree crimes, bail jumping is fourth-degree crime punishable by up to 18 months in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
For second degree crime or higher, bail jumping is a third-degree crime punishable by up to 5 years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine.
For more information on criminal proceedings and court requirements, contact the attorneys at Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, a New Jersey criminal defense law firm.