As you can imagine, failing to appear in court in Pennsylvania, when you are legally required to do so because of criminal charges, will result in stiff penalties. It could mean a bench warrant for your arrest or a “default in required appearance,” which could be a misdemeanor or a felony.
This is Pennsylvania law. And with the guidance of an expert Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney, you can better understand the state’s court system and what it could mean for the future outcome of your case.
When Could You be Required to Appear in Court?
In Pennsylvania, someone can be required to appear in court in several different roles, including as:
- A defendant
- A witness in a criminal case
- A witness in a civil case
Court proceedings that a person could specifically be required to appear for involve:
- Preliminary hearings
- Summary cases
- Criminal trial or civil court proceedings
What Happens if You Fail to Appear in Court?
A defendant, party, or witness in a civil or criminal case who is ordered to make a courtroom appearance for a conference or hearing, but fails to appear as ordered, will be punished by Pennsylvania law.
Two types of punishment – and the details about them – include:
A Bench Warrant
A bench warrant, which must be issued within 60 days of the date the person fails to appear, can be ordered only if the person had notice of the hearing or there is proof the notice was sent by mail and not returned, including:
- The court employee reports that he or she handed the court order to the person.
- The person signed a receipt for the court order, which has notice of the court date.
- Another person, considered competent and not involved in the case, nor an employee or relative of the court-ordered party, handed the court appearance request to the party.
A bench warrant, or a warrant for your arrest, can also be given to a person who fails to submit the requested documents or other items in a subpoena that is either served in person or by mail. Consequences include punishment for contempt or fines to be paid to the court or the opposing party. If a judge is not available to see a person arrested on a bench warrant, that person will be placed in jail until a hearing is held, which must be within 72 hours.
A Default in Required Appearance
To receive the punishment of Default in Required Appearance, a misdemeanor of the second degree, it must be proven that the defendant failed to appear in court without a lawful excuse because he or she went into hiding or fled to avoid trial, punishment, or being taken into custody. It is punishable in Pennsylvania by up to two years of jail time and a fine of up to $5,000.
How a Pennsylvania Attorney Can Help Your Failure to Appear Case
Contact a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney immediately for legal advice and representation for your failure to appear case. Our experienced team at the Ciccarelli Law Offices will help handle any warrants, prepare a defense on your charge, and develop the best strategy to negotiate your case in front of a judge.