When a person is accused of a crime in Oklahoma, his or her arrest usually comes in one of two ways: either the person is arrested at the scene based on probable cause, or a judge issues a warrant for his or her arrest.

If a person is arrested, he or she will typically have the opportunity to post bond, or bail out of jail. Bond payment is an arrangement intended to insure that a person shows up for all of his or her court dates. If the defendant makes every court appearance, the bond money will be returned to him or her (or to the bail bondsman who posted bond). If the defendant does not appear for court dates, the bond is forfeited.

Sometimes, a person will be released on an “own recognizance bond.” This means that the person is released from jail under the agreement that he or she will appear for all court dates. Failure to appear, whether one has posted bond or was released on his or her own recognizance, is a serious matter. It is important to consult your attorney to be sure of all required court dates; if you believe you have missed a court date, contact a lawyer as quickly as possible to find out how to handle the situation and avoid arrest.

What happens if I miss a court date?

Failing to show up for a court date—whether an arraignment, preliminary hearing, trial date, or any other time one has been issued a summons to appear in court—is a criminal offense. This means that a failure to appear will likely result in a criminal charge additional to whatever charges one is already facing.

Typically, in a case of nonappearance, a judge will issue a bench warrant for the arrest of the individual who disobeyed the summons by failing to appear or who violated bond requirements by missing the court date.

If someone has a warrant out for his or her arrest, police may arrest that person at any time. For example, if a defendant fails to show up in court, and the judge issues a bench warrant, the defendant could be arrested during a traffic stop or other inconvenient. Additionally, county sheriff’s departments periodically conduct warrant sweeps, making as many arrests for active warrants as time possible. If this happens, a person may be arrested at home in front of his or her family, at work in front of co-workers or customers, or other time that may cause personal or professional embarrassment.

There are several ways to check to see if you have an outstanding warrant. For example, you can do an Oklahoma County warrant search here, or check to see if you have an outstanding Tulsa warrant here.

Other consequences of nonappearance may include the following:

  • Denial of bond
  • Increased (often triple) bond
  • Revocation of own recognizance bond
  • Suspension of driver’s license

If a judge has issued a bench warrant for nonappearance, it is important to contact a lawyer as soon as possible to take a proactive approach in dealing with the situation. You may be able to avoid arrest and your attorney can help minimize any fallout from the missed court date, including working to post bond and have the warrant recalled.

What are the criminal penalties associated with failure to appear?

Because failure to appear is a crime, there are penalties associated with conviction. According to 59 O.S. § 1335, failing to comply with personal recognizance bond or forfeiting bond by failing to appear in court is subject to the following penalties:

“Whoever, having been admitted to bail for appearance before any district court in the State of Oklahoma, (1) incurs a forfeiture of the bail and willfully fails to surrender himself within thirty (30) days following the date of such forfeiture, or (2) willfully fails to comply with the terms of his personal recognizance, shall be guilty of a felony and shall be fined not more than Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00) or imprisoned not more than two (2) years, or both.”

Note that the law states a willful failure to comply and a willful failure to surrender. Defendants who miss court appearances may be able to avoid penalties of nonappearance if they work quickly with their attorneys to rectify the situation.

What should I do if I miss a court date or if I have a warrant out for my arrest?

If you think or know that you have missed a court appearance, it is critical to call your attorney as quickly as possible. If you do not have a lawyer, find one immediately. If a warrant has been issued for your arrest, your lawyer may be able to have the warrant recalled by taking a proactive approach to dealing with the situation. Do not wait to let the police pick you up at an inconvenient time. Address the situation head on with the help of your attorney.

For more information about Oklahoma arrest warrants and nonappearance, contact attorney Ryan Coventon at (405) 417-3842.