What Happens If I Do Not Attend My First DUI Court Date?

Posted on by JACK MKHITARIAN

Keys of a DUI victim in Santa FeYou might not be held until your first court appearance after a DUI, but if you do not show up for that court appearance, a judge will issue a bench warrant for your arrest. Furthermore, any bail you paid (or someone paid for you) will be forfeited to the court.

Ignoring your first appearance is not a slap on the wrist – it is profoundly serious. While this first appearance is often the “preliminary” hearing, there is nothing basic about it.

Understanding the Severity of a Failure to Appear

Once the court sets a date, they expect you to be there. Rarely do you have an excuse that is legitimate enough to miss that first hearing. The only time the judge would allow someone to miss their first appearance is if you were severely ill, injured, hospitalized, and your attorney was able to communicate with the court about your condition. Your attorney would petition for a continuance, and the court would set a new date so that you could recover.

Outside of “emergency” situations, however, you have little reason to miss your court appearance. If the court date does not work for you, talk with your attorney immediately to see about setting a new date. The more notice you give to the court, the better. However, if the court does not approve moving that date, you must show up on the day, and on time, or you will have a failure to appear.

The Consequences of a Failure to Appear in Court

There are serious consequences for not showing up to any court appearance, including your first. Regardless of which court date you are going to, if you do not show up, it is known as a failure to appear. Just some of the consequences of a failure to appear include:

  • Forfeiture of your bail. When you post bail, that money is only returned to you (or the person who paid it) if you show up in court for your hearing. If you fail to appear, then that bail money is forfeited – which in some cases could be thousands of dollars.
  • Denied bail for future release time and being forced to spend time in jail until your case is resolved. Bail is a privilege, and if you do not honor the rules of the court by showing up on your scheduled date, then you have lost the trust of the court. Therefore, you will not only forfeit bail, but you will be required to stay in jail until your case’s final disposition. That means, after you do finally have a first court appearance, you will be held over until trial or a negotiation is made – which could be months.
  • An automatic driver’s license suspension or revocation. You will lose your driver’s license for not appearing in court, and it would be unlikely you would succeed at the administrative hearing from the DMV later – especially if the DMV knows that you failed to appear in court.
  • A bench warrant will be issued for your failure to appear. Once you are marked failure to appear, a bench warrant is issued by a judge. If you were to get pulled over, the officer would see that you have a pending warrant and could arrest you on-site. A bench warrant is serious and goes on your criminal record.

Not Showing for Any Appearances Makes You a Fugitive

If you were to not show for any of your DUI court appearances, then you are no longer a failure to appear; instead, you are a fugitive. You will still have a bench warrant for your arrest. If you leave the state, do not think the bench warrant disappears. Instead, if you re-enter and you are pulled over, an officer will arrest you. Also, your driver’s license and license plate will all be registered with law enforcement. Therefore, they can access your records and see that you have a pending bench warrant.

Failure to Appear Is a Public Record That Will Affect You the Rest of Your Life

Once you have a bench warrant and you have a failure to appear (FTA), it becomes public record. Anyone running a background check will see that bench warrant and FTA. That includes future employers, landlords, etc.

Furthermore, when you apply for auto insurance after you have served time for a DUI, you will not only have a DUI, but you will have a suspended or revoked driver’s license. Not only do you have to first apply to get your license back, but you will then pay higher automobile insurance premiums. Even first-time offenders are often required to use an ignition interlock device (IID) alongside higher insurance. And you are responsible for paying for the installation, monthly monitoring, and all fees associated with the IID.

There Is No Statute of Limitations

Once that bench warrant is issued, it is there until you are arrested and the case is resolved. Therefore, do not think you can outrun that bench warrant for an FTA. Even if you are arrested in another state, that state may look for out-of-state warrants and they could return you to New Mexico to face trial.

Bottom Line: Hire a Qualified Criminal Defense Attorney and Appear in Court

Even if you are scared, or you think you will spend years in jail, ignoring your court date is not the way to resolve your case. Instead, hire a good criminal defense attorney. A DUI attorney can help argue your case and work toward the best possible outcome. Whether it is proving you are innocent, getting a better deal from the state, or just working to keep you out of jail, you need an advocate.

Do not let a DUI ruin your life. Instead, contact the defense team at New Mexico Criminal Law Offices. We offer free case evaluations, which you can schedule by calling us today or contacting us online with your questions.