When a judge gives you a date to appear, or you sign a promissory note to make a court appearance on a particular date, it will be a criminal offense in Arizona if you fail to appear. The law takes failure to appear pretty seriously and could result in serious criminal charges, punishable by a minimum of two years of prison time. But, the law gives you a chance to defend yourself against these charges after your rearrest. The help of a competent criminal attorney will go a long way in ensuring that you avoid a conviction and its consequences.
Therefore, if you face charges for failing to appear in Phoenix, we at Phoenix Criminal Attorney could be able to help you. Our experienced team of criminal lawyers will study the details of your case to determine the proper defense to compel the court to drop your charges.
Legal Definition of Arizona Failure to Appear
Court appearances are mandatory for anyone facing criminal charges in Arizona. If you are allowed to post bail after your arrest, the judge gives you a date to appear when your case is mentioned in court. Your presence is mandatory during this hearing. Failing to appear is interpreted as skipping bail and could cause the judge to order your rearrest.
You could also face charges for failing to appear before a judge after committing a traffic infraction. After a violation, you sign a pledge with the police to make a court appearance on a particular date for your case to be mentioned. Failing to make a court appearance on that specific date is seen as contempt of court and could result in serious criminal charges.
You could face charges for failing to appear if you knowingly failed to appear before a judge regarding an offense, whether an infraction, felony, or misdemeanor. A prosecutor could charge this violation as a Class 5 felony, based on the details of your case. That is punishable by up to two years of imprisonment.
Arizona laws against failure to appear are under two main statutes:
Arizona Revised Statutes 13-2507 — First-Degree Failure to Appear
You could face charges for failing to appear under this statute if you were legally required to appear before a judge concerning a felony offense, and you knowingly failed to appear as mandated despite the nature of the criminal charge you were facing. The crime is mainly a Class 5 felony.
Arizona Revised Statutes 13-2506 — Second-Degree Failing to Appear
You could face failure to appear charges under this statute if:
You are legally required to make a court appearance regarding a petty offense or a misdemeanor, but you knowingly fail to show up as needed, despite the nature of the charges you face
You are given a promissory to appear before a judge after an infraction or someone personally served you with a notice to show up in court, but you knowingly failed to appear in person or by legal representation.
The first subsection of this crime is a Class 1 misdemeanor, and the second is a Class 2 misdemeanor.
Example 1: Sarah faces charges for grand theft after breaking into her friend’s shop and stealing goods valued at $5000. After several hearings before a jury, Sarah pleads guilty. However, she fails to return to court for her sentence hearing. In this case, Sarah could face charges for failing to appear in first degree since the underlying crime is a felony. If found guilty, Sarah could receive penalties for a Class 5 felony in addition to penalties for the underlying offense.
Example 2: Jimmy is stopped by a traffic officer for speeding. The officer makes Jimmy sign a promissory note to appear before a judge within three days for the mentioning of his case. However, Jimmy does not appear as required. For this reason, he could face second-degree charges for failing to appear, prosecuted as a Class 2 misdemeanor.
If you fail to appear as required, the judge orders your rearrest. You will attend a hearing after that for failing to appear. During this trial, the prosecutor must prove all the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt for the court to find you guilty under Arizona Revised Statutes 13-2507 or ARS 13-2506. These elements provide the legal definition of failure to appear as used under Arizona laws.
Elements for first-degree failure to appear are:
You knowingly failed to appear or was unable to schedule a court appearance
The court date you failed to honor or schedule was concerning a felony charge
Elements for a second-degree charge for failing to appear are:
You knowingly failed to appear or failed to show up in a legal hearing
The hearing was connected to a misdemeanor charge or a written promissory you signed or received after an infraction
Signed promises to appear for hearings happen when people are involved in petty offenses and traffic infractions. You could receive a written promissory to appear from the police in case of:
A vehicle accident
Driving in Arizona without a valid license
Committing a traffic violation or receiving a ticket
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
A traffic infraction cannot carry severe penalties for those found guilty, but failing to appear will increase the penalties.
Penalties for Arizona Failure to Appear
As previously mentioned, first-degree failure to appear is a Class 5 felony offense, punishable by a maximum of two years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $150,000.
A second-degree charge for failing to appear is a Class 1 or Class 2 misdemeanor, depending on the details of your case. A Class 1 misdemeanor can be punished by a maximum of six months in jail and a fine of not more than $2,500. A Class 2 misdemeanor attracts a maximum jail sentence of four months and a maximum fine of $750.
Additionally, the judge will issue the police a bench warrant for your arrest if you fail to appear as required. The warrant authorizes the police to arrest you on sight and bring you to court. The police will actively look for you after that. Thus, your arrest could happen anywhere, including your place of work, school, or even at home. It is a devastating experience for you and your loved ones.
After your re-arrest, the judge will impose bail, or you could forfeit the bail. You forfeit bail when you fail to appear as ordered and were released on bail after your arrest for the underlying offense. It means that you lose the entire bail amount to the court. If you had posted cash bail, the court would keep the whole amount.
But if the judge had ordered your pre-trial release on personal recognizance, you would not lose anything. However, the judge can impose bail if you wish to post bail for your pretrial release. Note that bail could be set high this time around for failing to appear. The judge could even deny your bail request. Thus, you could remain incarcerated until the conclusion of your case.
That is why you need the help of a competent criminal attorney if you face charges for failing to appear in Arizona. The outcome of your case could change when you engage an experienced lawyer.
Possible Legal Defenses for Arizona Failure to Appear Charges
If you face charges for failing to appear in Arizona, it is advisable to fight your charges to avoid a conviction and its consequences. It starts with hiring a qualified criminal attorney to take you through the legal process and fight your charges in court. Fortunately for you, several defense strategies are available that your attorney can aggressively use to compel the court to drop your charges. The most common of these are:
You Did Not Deliberately Fail To Appear
Arizona charges for failure to appear occur when you knowingly or deliberately fail to honor a set court date. That could be the case if you knew that you were expected in court on a particular date or time and failed to show up. You would not be guilty if you did not intentionally fail to appear. It could be that you thought the court date was on a different date than the right one, or something happened along the way, causing you to miss the court date.
With a valid reason for failing to appear, your attorney can demonstrate in court that failing to appear was not a deliberate act after all. In that case, the judge will dismiss failing to appear charges and set another court date for you.
You Did Not Receive The Notice
Sometimes the judge gives a notice to the police for a defendant to appear. It means that someone else is responsible for serving you the notice. Your failure to appear could have been because you did not receive that notice in the first place. There was no way to know that you were expected in court if you did not receive the notification. If that happens, your attorney will demonstrate in court that you did not receive the court summons. If the notice was given to the police, the prosecutor can verify that and report it to the court. The judge would drop your charges if you did not know about the court summons.
You Had an Emergency
You could have encountered an emergency that prompted you to change your plans for the day. An emergency is a good reason for failing to appear. The judge would drop your charges if the reason were valid enough to cause you to miss a hearing date.
It could be that you woke up sick on the morning you were expected in court, or someone in your family had a medical emergency. You could not have made it to the court if you had to drive a family member to an emergency room.
It could also be that something happened while you were on your way to the court, like an accident. You had to wait for the police to clear you, which probably took longer than you had expected.
You Did Not Sign a Promissory to Appear
A signed agreement to appear could have been because of an infraction you allegedly committed. The police do not make arrests for minor offenses like those. It could be that the officer did not make you sign the agreement but went ahead to forward your name and case details to the prosecutor. If your signature does not appear in the agreement to appear, the judge will dismiss your charges.
You Did Not Intend To Evade the Court Process
When you fail to appear, it could seem to the judge that you were trying to evade the court process. It can seem like a good idea to avoid court appearances when facing charges for a serious offense. Some defendants go to the extent of leaving the court jurisdiction for fear of their case’s outcome.
An experienced attorney will convince the jury that you did not intend to avoid going through the court process even though you failed to appear. It could be that you developed cold feet at the last minute or were still preparing evidence against your charges. The judge will not give you a harsh penalty if your intentions are valid.
What To Do If An Active Bench Warrant Is Out For Your Arrest
As previously mentioned, a criminal court judge will issue the police with a bench warrant for your arrest soon after failing to appear as required. Bench warrants are very different from arrest warrants. They give the police the mandate to arrest the suspect any minute after their issuance for contempt of court order, while arrest warrants give the police mandate to arrest a suspect for suspected wrongdoing.
Therefore, you can be arrested anytime and anywhere once the bench warrant is out. The police will even look for you after that. If they spot and arrest you, you will remain in their custody until an officer can apprehend you in court.
When a judge issues a bench warrant for your arrest, you must find a way to quash or recall it. It means having the justice system clear it. You could do that by appearing in court or having your lawyer appear in court on your behalf to recall or quash the warrant. Here are circumstances under which your lawyer can go to court on your behalf to recall or quash your warrant or arrest:
You failed to make a necessary court appearance.
The appearance is connected to a misdemeanor or infraction charge you face
If the court appearance is connected to a felony charge you face, you are required to appear before a judge in person to quash or recall the warrant.
Once you realize that you have missed a date in court, call the court or search online to find out if there is a bench warrant for your arrest. Arizona’s Supreme Court has an online platform where you can find all kinds of court information, including outstanding arrest warrants.
You can search through the portal for any warrant in your name using your name and birth date. If you find a warrant in your name, click on your case number to reveal other details, including the date of its issuance, the court that issued it, the reason for its issuance, and whether there is any activity in the case. You can also call the local sheriff’s office or have your criminal lawyer find the information on your behalf.
Arizona Failure to Appear and Related Charges
Arizona laws have other offenses closely related to failing to appear. They include:
Interfering With Court Process
The law against interfering with the court process is under Arizona Revised Statutes 13-2810. You could face charges under this statute if you commit or refuse to commit an act relating to a court process. For instance, if you act disrespectfully or engage in disorderly conduct during a court session. Violating this statute is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of six months in jail.
The law requires public members to willingly volunteer information to help the police or prosecutor with a criminal case. Failing to do so could cause you to face charges for obstructing justice under ARS 13-2409. This law applies to felony and misdemeanor cases alike.
You could face charges for perjury if you make a false statement or declaration concerning a legal matter, knowing too well that the statement or declaration is untrue. Perjury is a graver offense than failing to appear and is prosecuted as a Class 4 felony, punishable by a maximum of three years and nine months in prison.
Find an Experienced Phoenix Criminal Attorney Near Me
If you face charges for failing to appear before a judge in Phoenix, AZ, it could help to engage the help of a competent criminal attorney. You need proper legal guidance, advice, and help with formulating a solid defense against your charges. At Phoenix Criminal Attorney, our team will not rest until you obtain a fair outcome of your situation. Call us at 602-551-8092, and let us look into the details of the matter for quality advice and a smooth legal process.