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  • By: Kevin Leckerman, Esq.
  • Published: July 6, 2011
Three guards restraining a man on the floor - Leckerman Law, LLC

If you’ve been arrested for DUI / DWI, you’re probably feeling tremendous stress, fear, and embarrassment. It’s likely you just want the situation to go away, and with good reason – it’s mentally traumatic to be labeled a “criminal” and to have to face a judge who will decide your fate.

Unfortunately, there are people who can’t handle the stress of a drunk driving charge and decide to flee the situation and not appear for court, hoping they can avoid any jail time or other penalties. The judicial system has established penalties specifically for these types of situations, and you may be well advised to know what you may face if you run.

Missing Court Dates

Hiring a DUI lawyer with a strong track record of helping people lessen their penalties and fines should always be the first and most logical step for any one arrested for DWI. People need as much help as they can get in a situation like this and an experienced attorney is money well spent.

But your attorney may not be able to “handle everything” without you being present for court dates. If you were arrested for DUI, then you must be present for every single court proceeding, whether your attorney appears or not, or whether you have an attorney or not – unless your attorney can get the court to grant a waiver of your appearance.

If you do not appear for your court date, the judge hearing your case will typically issue a bench warrant for your arrest. The reason for the warrant will typically be a “failure to appear.” It does not matter why you missed court. The good news is that it may be possible to call and reset your hearing date or surrender yourself to the court instead of waiting to be picked up by local law enforcement. However, the best course of action is to comply with the court’s requests and appear in court as instructed.

The Consequences of Failing To Appear – Becoming a Fugitive

Pennsylvania and New Jersey are very serious about punishing DUI offenders. For this reason, missing one or more court dates carry strong consequences to drive home the point that this is no small matter and must be taken seriously. A person can be found in contempt of court and receive a large fine. Alternatively, a high bail may be set, which you cannot afford. In this case, you would stay in jail for as long as it takes your charges to be disposed. Finally, if you are arrested outside of the state that has issued the warrant, then you may face extradition. Extradition can be a very long process that will again leave you incarcerated for an extended period of time until you have been transferred to the warrant issuing state and had a hearing in that state to have that warrant lifted.

The bottom line is that anyone who has been arrested for a DUI should immediately seek out a professional drunk driving or drugged driving attorney. The court system and the ensuing penalties can be overwhelming to a person unfamiliar with the law. Getting a qualified attorney on your side and following their instructions throughout your entire DUI process will put you in the best possible position to reduce your penalties and make sure that you are in compliance with all of the court’s requests.

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