When you are charged with a criminal offense in New Jersey, you must appear in Court when you are told to be there, or the Judge can issue a warrant for your arrest and require you to post bail before the Court will lift the warrant or issue a new Court date. Being ‘busy’, or not wanting to miss work, or having child-care issues does not excuse you from you court date. The danger is not limited to you being arrested and held until the Court has time to see you. The fact that you did not appear can impact your drivers license, risk additional penalties and consequences for Contempt, and impact the sentence the Judge will impose if you are convicted.
When you were a child and you made a ‘mistake’ your Mom would say ‘Why did you do that?’…and you were told not to do it again and the punishment was not too severe, most of the time… As an adult, the Court will hold you accountable, and has a few ways to react when someone does not come to Court when they are told to. Most commonly, the Court issues a bench warrant for your arrest if you miss your court date. The Court can set a bail amount that you can post to clear the warrant without being taken into custody, or simply issue the warrant and wait for you to be arrested and held to see the Judge. Whether you ‘forgot’ about the court appearance, missed your bus, had to work, or for some other reason didn’t go, you are the one that the Judge will punish for not being there as scheduled. OK, you say, so I missed the court date, so what? In addition to the Judge issuing a warrant for your arrest, the Judge can suspend your drivers license until you clear the warrant. Once your license is suspended, you will have to pay a ‘restoration fee’ to the Motor Vehicle Commission to be reinstated. If you drive before the driving privileges are restored, you will be issued a ticket for ‘Driving on the Suspended/Revoked List’ and face a $500.00 fine and possible jail for a first offense, on top of you still having to post the bail and paying the restoration fee. In addition, the Judge could decide to hold you in Contempt of Court for not appearing and issue you a fine for that offense as well, and you are still not done dealing with the charge that you were in Court for originally that you did not go to Court for.
Bottom line, if your lawyer does not get permission for you to miss Court BEFORE you are supposed to be there, be in Court or risk additional consequences…ones that your lawyer may not be able to include in the disposition of the case they are there to represent you on…or you get the Judge to ignore.
If you need legal assistance for a court appearance you can or cannot make, contact my office at 973-982-1200 for a free consultation to discuss the options and possible repercussions that await you.