Missing a Court Date, Failure to Appear, and Contempt of Court in Oklahoma

The state of Oklahoma imposes serious consequences against those who fail to appear in court when called. While these consequences are largely impacted by the specifics of the individual circumstance – the type of hearing, the nature of the case, the disposition of the judge, etc. – there are two that nearly always occur.

The first is that a warrant will be issued for your arrest. Issued by the judge, this bench warrant authorizes law enforcement to locate you, apprehend you, and bring you before the court. Law enforcement will occasionally conduct what are called warrant sweeps, arriving at your home or place or business to place you under arrest beneath the watching eyes of friends, colleagues, employees, or family.

The second is that your defense against the charges in question will be severely impacted by your inability to appear. In some cases the court may proceed without you, keeping you from presenting important testimony.

How Will I Know When to Arrive in Court?

When there are specific criminal charges against you, the court or the law enforcement agency leading the prosecution will issue what is known as a criminal summons. This legal document outlines the specific charges against you while providing you with the time, date, and place of your assigned court date, arraignment, or hearing. Failure to heed this summons can lead to the issuance of a warrant and additional charges.

Is Failure to Appear in Court Considered a Separate Criminal Offense?

Yes. Failure to appear is generally charged as a misdemeanor, with a fine of up to $5,000 and a prison sentence of up to two years. In cases where the defendant has a criminal history or the original charge was serious, it can be charged as a felony.

Apart from the separate offense, failure to appear can result in forfeiture or an increased dollar amount for bond, and in some cases suspension of your driver’s license.

What are Some Reasons for Failing to Appear?

The court will rarely accept excuses for failing to appear at assigned court dates, but some explanations can lend some credibility to your reasoning for missing your court date. Some of these include:

Clerical Errors: The court system makes mistakes just like anyone else, and on occasion, the wrong date or time could be inserted into your summons. Sometimes a summons is even sent to the wrong address.
Ignorance: It could be that you weren’t properly notified or never received the summons, and as a result were genuinely unaware, through no fault of your own, that you had failed to appear.

Ignorance: It could be that you weren’t properly notified or never received the summons, and as a result were genuinely unaware, through no fault of your own, that you had failed to appear.

Extenuating Circumstances: Emergencies often arise unexpectedly, keeping you from appearing as summoned. Perhaps you fell grievously ill or were incapacitated through injury, or had to care for a child or a family member.

Again, the individual circumstances of your case will determine whether any of these excuses are deemed acceptable.

Could I Be Charged With Contempt of Court for Failing to Appear?

Quite possibly. If the judge has reason to believe that your failure to appear was intentional, undertaken as an act of deliberate disobedience or dismissive disregard, they have legal authorization to charge you with contempt of court.

How Can I Check if a Bench Warrant Has Been Issued?

Generally, checking for outstanding warrants against you involves calling or appearing before law enforcement to ask in person. As this makes it much easier for you to be arrested, it’s generally a better idea to allow an attorney to check on your behalf. Acting as an intermediary, The Hunsucker Law Group can check for outstanding warrants on your behalf, protecting you from possible arrest, acquiring information about the case against you, and occasionally presenting evidence that disproves the charges against you.

If you think a warrant has been issued for your arrest, don’t go it alone. Contact the Hunsucker Legal Group to begin protecting your rights today. Together, we can potentially clear up any outstanding warrants, help reduce charges against you, and possibly see your case dismissed. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

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