How Long Do You Stay In Jail For A Warrant For Missing Court? A Must Read

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How Long Do You Stay In Jail For A Warrant For Missing Court

It is not everyday you come across questions like, “How long do you stay in jail for a warrant for missing court.” Why? Everyone is doing their best to stay out of trouble. Or, we can say most Americans are doing all they can to stay out of trouble. 

The police and the court are two establishments you don’t want to get into trouble with. Why? They can hurt you badly legally. 

You are not a free man until a judge discharges a case brought against you in a competent court. So, don’t ever consider missing court. Here’s what happens when you do.

How Long Do You Stay In Jail For A Warrant For Missing Court

No stipulated length of jail time exists for a warrant for missing your court hearing. Instead, if you miss court (have an outstanding warrant), you’ll be imprisoned until you start complying. 

Note that we’re not talking about a criminal offense here. If you commit a criminal offense, you might spend several months in jail once a bench warrant is issued. 

The truth is that bench warrants don’t have any official jail time or limit. The same goes for arrest warrants. You must appear in court before the judge can withdraw the warrant.  

Judges issue bench warrants for two possible reasons. 

  • You failed to appear (FTA) in court on the date slated to hear your case or read out the judgment. 
  • Contempt of court – This refers to a crime where an individual disobeys or disrespects a law court, including its officers, via behavior that defies or opposes the court’s dignity, authority, and justice.      

A Handy Tip: The fact that a bench warrant was for you for FTA is never a good thing. It could get worse for you. So, don’t deliberately miss your court sitting because you understand a bench warrant has no jail time. You don’t want to anger the judge presiding over your case.

What Penalty Can You Face For Missing Your Court Date? 

Most people may go scot-free when they miss a court date. They may provide excuses for their absence, which the judge reacts to. The judge may accept or reject your excuses. 

If the judge accepts your excuses, they may recall the bench warrant and reschedule another date for the court hearing. If not, you’ll be arrested. 

You’ll be in trouble if you miss the next court sitting after the judge has accepted your excuses and rescheduled the court date. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are. You’ll be arrested and kept in jail until the next court date.

The police might not look for you if you miss a court date (if you’re just a traffic offender or for minor crimes). But that doesn’t mean you’re free to drive around town. You could be arrested for something as minor as a traffic stop. 

When the police officer checks your record on their system, they’ll spot the bench warrant issued for you and do the needful. 

A Handy: It is not a good thing to miss court. Why? This act could make a minor problem bigger. Your move to ignore the court hearing may send a wrong signal to the judge. They may assume you’re disrespecting the court and its constituted authority. 

An unhappy judge’s judgment isn’t what anyone would want. The judge could make your sentence harder by increasing your jail time or probation, including requesting that you pay a bigger fine. 

Penalties You Could Face For Missing Court

The punishment for failure to appear in court may vary from one court to another. The presiding judge also has a role to play. 

A judge could order the following once he marks your case as FTA. Here are the possible punishments you might face:

Bench warrant: The first and most likely punishment you may get for FTA is a bench warrant. The judge might issue an arrest warrant, empowering the police to arrest you. However, this is likely the case for offenses such as felony or misdemeanor. A bench warrant may also be issued for a traffic violator.

A Handy Tip: If a judge issues a bench warrant for you, the police won’t look for you unless the crime committed is serious. But you can still get arrested if a cop finds that a bench warrant has been issued for you. 

Bail Bond:  

If you’re on bail, don’t miss court dates. Why? The judge could revoke your bail and remand you to prison pending trial. 

Another worst thing that could happen if you miss your court date is you could lose the original bond paid when arrested. So, be careful and ensure you don’t miss court sittings.  

Driver’s license suspension:

What happens when you fail to appear in a traffic court hearing? You can expect a warrant of arrest from the presiding judge. In addition, the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) will likely receive a letter from the court regarding the warrant. 

In such a scenario, you’ll be given two months to sort things out. Otherwise, the agency may suspend your driver’s license, and you know what that means. 

Charged separately:

The judge may consider your FTA as contempt of court. And as you already know, judges don’t take such issues lightly. You could face additional punishment.

Harsh sentence:

If you want the judge to consider that you’re remorseful of the crime committed when convicted or entering a plea bargain, avoid FTA. 

Why is this important? The judge presiding over your case may consider FTA a sign that you were never remorseful. The judge may impose a harsher sentence on you. 

In other words, you might receive additional jail time or a higher fine. 

The fine varies based on the crime committed and the judge presiding over the case. Here are crimes and fines or penalties you could face for missing court. 

Felony FTA penalties:

If you committed a felony and failed to appear in court, here are the punishments you might face. 

You can expect a fine of no less than $5000 together with county jail or your state prison. For people that did post bail, the minimum penalty is $10,000, while offenders could spend time in the county or state prison for 16 months. Sometimes, it could be 2, 3, or even 4 years. 

Misdemeanor FTA:

If you were charged with a misdemeanor where there wasn’t bail, failure to show up in court for your sentencing, arraignment, or trial could cause the court to charge you with another misdemeanor. 

What will happen if I show up within 14 days of the court trial date? In this, you won’t face any charges.

Note that the fine you could pay for not appearing in court could range from $1000, including 6 months of jail time. However, you’ll be spending 6 months in county jail.   

A Handy Tip: The judge will not jail you for not having money to pay a fine or restitution. But ensure you have a lawyer to represent you in court. 

On the other hand, you can suggest ways you intend to pay the fine. The judge may also substitute the penalty for community service. It all depends on how the judge feels it is best to settle the case.   

Urgent Steps To Take After Missing Court 

It is not the intention of most people to miss their court hearing. Situations beyond their control may have caused it. 

If you have a legitimate reason for missing your court hearing, we’ll discuss urgent steps you can take to address any negative consequences it might have on your case. 

On the other hand, if you don’t have any legitimate reason, we advise that you attend your court hearings. 

Here are steps you should take whenever you miss a court sitting. 

  1. Do you have a legitimate reason? If the cause is an accident or medical, you have no problem, provided you can prove that your physician was why you missed the court sitting. A letter from your physician should suffice in this case. 
  2. Visit the clerk’s office quickly and explain why you missed court sitting. Again, your reason better be compelling. Otherwise, you won’t get a favorable reply from the court. 
  3. Inform your defense attorney of your situation and desire to have the court sitting rescheduled. Charge your attorney to request a dismissal of the bench warrant issued for you. 

What Bench Warrant And Arrest Warrant Means

There is a clear difference between a bench warrant and an arrest warrant. The similarities are both are issued by a judge, and you could go to jail when the police lay their hands on you. 

The police may approach the judge to ask for an arrest warrant when they have enough evidence that someone has committed a crime or is about to do so. 

On the other hand, bench warrants are issued mainly by the court. And they are issued when an individual fails to appear in court on the hearing date. You can also receive a bench warrant if you fail to comply with a court order to pay a certain fine or violate probation. 


How long do you stay in jail for a warrant for missing court? There is no specific jail time for a bench warrant issued against someone that missed court. The court may keep you in jail until your next court hearing. 

However, if you commit a felony and miss court sitting, you may be asked to pay above $5000 fine and spend over 16 months in jail. For a misdemeanor, you may be asked to pay a fine of $1000 and may spend over 6 months in prison. 

There is no point missing court when the presiding judge deems it fit to hear your case. So, don’t miss your court hearing unless you have a legitimate reason to. 

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Susan Tapia is an ambitious, savvy news writer with a vibrant personality and an eye for detail. She is highly experienced in crafting compelling stories and dedicated to seeking out the truth. With her inquisitive nature, she delves deep into every subject she touches, uncovering unexpected facts that help her engage her readers. Susan has an unbridled passion for writing, and she strives to inspire others through her work. She confidently shares her thought-provoking ideas with enthusiasm and candor, making sure the world can see the truth no matter how uncomfortable it may be. Simply put, Susan Tapia is a trailblazer in the journalism industry who never fails to deliver her readers riveting stories they won't soon forget.

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