Failure to Appear in Court

Sometimes life gets in the way and you might have forgotten about that traffic ticket that you received 3 months ago. Or you could be scared and thought it was best to skip your court date. Whatever the situation may be, it is important to understand that this will likely not go away on its own. Failing to appear in court is a charge in and of itself and is something that should be addressed by an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately to avoid further consequences.

What Happens if I Fail to Appear in Court? Traffic Violations

A traffic violation is likely something that everyone has or will experience in their lifetime. But what happens if you fail to appear in court for that ticket? There are many innocent reasons why you may have missed your court date; perhaps you forgot or lost the ticket. However, if you realize you missed a court date, it is important to address this as soon as possible before the consequences spiral out of control.

If you miss a court date, you have 20 days from failing to appear to remedy the situation. After those 20 days are up, the clerk of court may report you to the DMV. After the DMV receives this notice, they will send you one notice advising that your license will be revoked unless the situation is remedied. If no further action is taken by you, your license will be revoked. If you are pulled over before this is taken care of, you will not only be charged with a Failure to Appear but also with a Driving While License Revoked charge.

While Failure to Appear for a routine traffic violation will likely not result in an arrest immediately, the judge may issue a criminal summons on top of the previous charges. If the failure to appear continues, you could potentially face jail time. Our experienced attorneys can not only help you address the initial traffic violation but can also help in the event you are charged with Failure to Appear.


If you have been released on bail for a misdemeanor and fail to show up to your court date for one reason or another, there are potential serious consequences and this needs to be addressed as soon as possible. The first consequence is that you could potentially forfeit your bond that was posted. What this means is that if you put up collateral as bond, the court can sell it for cash, or that you will not receive back any cash posted for your bond. The judge will also likely issue a warrant for your arrest, and if arrested you will likely have to remain in jail until your court proceedings. After failing to appear, you could be seen as a higher flight risk in the eyes of the court and will not be allowed to leave on bond. You could also be facing additional jail time for failing to appear. Failure to appear for a misdemeanor charge can carry a potential jail sentence of up to 6 months.

It is important to know that the statute of limitations in North Carolina for a misdemeanor is two years. However, since Failure to Appear is a charge in and of itself, the timer for statute of limitations will start once you miss your court date. There has been some debate on whether or not failing to appear is a continuing offense, and when the statute of limitations will run out. Regardless, this is not something that can be outrun or will go away. One of our defense attorneys is on your side and ready to help you tackle this head on.


Unlike a misdemeanor, there is no statute of limitations for a felony. If you fail to appear in court for a felony charge, you could be arrested at any point for this. If you have failed to appear for a felony charge, it is important to address this as soon as possible so that the court can see you are serious about resolving whatever you have been charged with. Failure to appear for a felony charge is an additional felony charge that can come with additional jail time of up to 8 months for first time offenders.

Is It Likely I Will Be Caught?

While it is unlikely that there are droves of police officers out looking for you as soon as you fail to appear in court, especially if the initial charge is insignificant, it is very likely that you will be caught eventually. Criminal charges and Failure to Appear in court are not things that will go away on its own. Your charges will be in a database that law enforcement will run your information through in the event you are pulled over, and at that time you could be arrested for unaddressed charges. It is extremely important to tackle this head on to make sure that you do not face further charges for failing to appear in court.

We Can Help

While it is pretty straightforward whether you appeared in court or not, the legal issues surrounding failure to appear can be complex and have a snowball effect of consequences. Before your situation spirals out of control, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to help. At Arnold & Smith, PLLC we know this can be a scary and overwhelming time, and we are here to help. Contact us today for a consultation.

For your convenience and safety, we offer video and phone conferencing. If you prefer an in-person consultation, we have three easy to reach offices in Uptown Charlotte, Monroe and Mooresville.