What Happens if You Fail to Appear in Criminal Court in Utah?
If you get arrested, you will have to go to court. Even if you intend to plead guilty or settle the case with the prosecutor, you will still have to show up in person to speak with a judge.
If you do not appear in court for any reason, the judge has the option to issue a bench warrant for your arrest. A bench warrant gives the police the authority to arrest you during what would otherwise be a routine interaction. It is a good idea to turn yourself in if you have a bench warrant in Utah. Doing so will help to mitigate the more serious consequences of not appearing in court. A criminal defense lawyer can help you plan and prepare for dealing with a bench warrant.
Contact our Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyers at Overson Law, PLLC, at (801) 758-2287 today to talk about your case.
Failure to Appear in Court in Utah
In Utah, if you fail to appear in court on your assigned date, a likely consequence is that a bench warrant will be issued for your arrest. Utah Code § 77-7-19 requires that you be sent a citation telling you that you must appear in court on or before a certain date. Sometimes, the citation will have a date already picked out. Other times the citation will simply state that the court will notify you of when you should appear. A citation for a low-level issue might ask that you pay a fine instead of asking that you appear in court.
If you do not appear in court or pay the fine as laid out in the citation, the court can issue a bench warrant for your arrest – but our Bountiful, UT criminal defense lawyers can help you fight these warrants.
What is a Bench Warrant in Utah?
A judge issues a bench warrant after someone fails to appear in court on a date they are required to. The bench warrant gives police officers the authority to arrest the person named in the warrant at any time they come into contact, barring some exceptions. For example, if there is a bench warrant for your arrest, the police will not usually break down the door to your house to arrest you. Instead, they will arrest you the next time you get pulled over or have another encounter with the police.
Bench warrants do not have a time limit; they last until you either turn yourself in or are arrested by the police.
Reasons to Issue a Bench Warrant in Utah
Bench warrants are primarily issued when someone doesn’t appear in court. However, there are other reasons a judge could decide to issue a bench warrant. For example, if someone is not complying with a court order, such as a restraining order, the judge could issue a bench warrant.
Bench warrants are not issued for every person who does not appear in court. A bench warrant first requires that the prosecution have probable cause that you committed a crime. Second, the judge determines whether you are likely to show up on your own or are a threat to the public. If the judge determines either of those things to be true, they will likely issue a bench warrant for your arrest.
Consequences of Bench Warrants for Failure to Appear in Utah
Negative consequences are attached to a bench warrant being issued in your name.
First, the police can arrest you during any ordinary interaction. For example, if you get pulled over for speeding, instead of driving away with a ticket, you’ll be arrested and leave in the back of a police car.
Second, your bail will likely be increased. In cases where you have missed multiple court dates, the court might deny bail entirely, and, upon arrest, you will have to stay in jail until your day in court.
Finally, failure to appear in court makes you look irresponsible and unrepentant in the eyes of the law. Prosecutors are less likely to offer a plea deal or compromise when you show up arrested by a police officer. It will appear as if you are not taking the criminal charges against you seriously to both the prosecutor and the judge. If you show up on your own, it gives the impression that you are trying to take responsibility for your actions, and the court might be more willing to cooperate.
What to do if You Have a Bench Warrant in Utah
If you find out you have a bench warrant, there are steps you can take to try and mitigate the severity of the warrant. Once you find out there is a bench warrant for your arrest, you should speak to an attorney immediately before taking any other action.
How to Find Out if You Have a Bench Warrant in Utah
There are several ways to find out whether you have a bench warrant in Utah. First, the Utah Department of Public Safety has a search engine on its website where you can see if you have a bench warrant or not. Second, you can call the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification to see if you have a bench warrant. Alternatively, you can call the court clerk for your county to see if there is a bench warrant for you.
Speak to a Lawyer Before Turning Yourself In
Once you find out you have a bench warrant, you should speak to a lawyer before taking any other action or turning yourself in. A Draper, UT criminal defense lawyer can help you navigate the process and make sure you don’t make any accidental mistakes that could harm your case. An attorney can also inform you of potential consequences for turning yourself in so you can make an informed decision.
How to Minimize Criminal Penalties From a Bench Warrant
After you have discussed your options with a criminal defense lawyer, you can choose what you want to do next. While you are likely to be arrested if you turn yourself in without a lawyer, if you have legal counsel, the court is significantly more likely to work with you and schedule a hearing date to handle your case. Judges are very busy, so you may be asked to come to court on a different day.
It could also be a good idea to call a court clerk and tell them you have a bench warrant and intend to appear in court. They can help you through the process. There are potential consequences to turning yourself in. You could end up in jail or paying bail. Make absolutely certain you talk to a lawyer before deciding to turn yourself in.
Work with your lawyer to figure out the best way to show up to court.
Call Our Criminal Defense Lawyers for a Free Case Review
Call our Ogden criminal defense lawyers at Overson Law, PLLC, at (801) 758-2287 today for a free review of your case.