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Failure to Appear

Iowa law treats the failure to appear for a court date as a serious offense, especially if the original charge is a felony or serious misdemeanor. These laws exist to ensure that defendants appear for their court dates and understand the penalties for not doing so. Failing to appear in court may result in a misdemeanor charge as well as summary judgement.

Sometimes, however, a defendant may not be able to appear in court for health or other reasons. Despite having a legitimate excuse, you may still be charged and a warrant issued for your arrest.

In the following article, we’ll go over the conditions necessary to excuse a court appearance and the penalties for willfully failing to appear.

Des Moines Failure to Appear Lawyer

Failing to appear in court can have serious consequences on your case, reputation and future endeavors. If you’re charged with failing to appear, you may find yourself on the receiving end of an arrest warrant or worse.

If you or a loved one have been charged with failing to appear in court, then you need strong legal representation. The lawyers at McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. are experienced court order attorneys, and are ready to walk you through your case while clearing any misunderstandings that may arise.

With our experience, skills, and resources our attorneys can effectively fight for you. Call (515) 279-9700 now to set up your first consultation for free.

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Failure to Appear

Iowa defines failure to appear under Section 805.5 of the State Code.

Appearance laws is designed to ensure that defendants comply with the judicial process, respecting the court’s time and the effort invested by the legal system to adjudicate cases fairly and efficiently. When a defendant fails to show up for their scheduled court appearance without a valid excuse, they disrupt the process and can be charged with failure to appear, in addition to any original charges they were facing.

Failure to appear requires that the defendant:

  • Had reasonable notice that he or she was required to appear in a court of law (summons)
  • Had sufficient time to prepare for the summons
  • Willingly chose not to appear for court

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Penalties for Failing to Appear

The penalties for violating Section 805.5 are a little less straightforward.

Warrant and Fines

Depending on the reason for your summons, you may be cited a fine, issued a warrant for your arrest, or both. If the original charge was a misdemeanor, the failure to appear is more likely to be charged with a fine, while felony offenses are likely to carry stiffer penalties, including longer jail terms and higher fines.

Forfeiture of Bond or Bail

Typically, you are refunded the full amount of your posted bail if you appear at every court session. However, missing even one court appearance may result in the loss of the entire bail amount.

Additional Charges and Summary Judgement

In some cases, failing to appear in court may result in default (automatic) judgement against you. If you are able to successfully fight the appearance charge then the court may delay or reassess judgement.

Beyond legal penalties, appearance charges can significantly impact the defendant’s credibility in the eyes of the court, potentially affecting the outcome of their case and any future dealings with the legal system.

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Common Defenses

Defending against a failure to appear charge often revolves around demonstrating that the failure was not intentional. This may be due to the fault of the court, the client’s legal defense, or other circumstances beyond the defendant’s control. Some common defenses include:

  • Lack of Notice: A defendant may argue that they were not properly notified of the court date. Effective defense requires proving that the court or the prosecution failed in their duty to provide timely and clear notice.
  • Mistake: Confusion about the court date or a genuine misunderstanding about the requirement to appear can sometimes serve as a defense, especially if the defendant can show they made efforts to comply with court orders.
  • Unavoidable Circumstances: Circumstances such as medical emergencies, accidents, or other unforeseeable events that prevented the defendant from appearing in court might be considered valid defenses. Documentation (such as medical records) is typically required to support such a claim.
  • Ineffective Assistance of Counsel: In rare cases, if a defendant’s legal representation failed to inform them of a court date or provided incorrect information about their requirement to appear, this might serve as a basis for defense.

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Additional Resources

Iowa Judicial Branch – The Iowa Judicial Branch offers a detailed summary on self-representation, including what happens if you don’t show for court.

Courtroom Protocol – Visit the Iowa Judicial Branch for more information on courtroom protocol, including what to wear, when to appear and everything else related to court appearances.

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Hire an Attorney for Failure to Appear in Des Moines, Iowa

Call us now at (515) 279-9700 to set up your first consultation for free. We accept clients throughout the greater Polk County and Dallas County area including Ankeny, Altoona, Johnston, Polk City, Pleasant Hill, Adel, Waukee, Perry and De Soto.

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