Every time you have to show up in court for a hearing, for example, when you have a family matter, traffic violation charges, or criminal charges, you should take it very seriously. The failure to appear in court in Canada not only makes it more difficult to prove your case but also leads to additional criminal charges. As a consequence, you can be arrested and might be sentenced up to 2 years in prison.
Those who cannot show up in court or might have already missed their court date need to speak to an experienced lawyer as soon as possible to choose the best defence strategy. Here is a general overview of what will happen if you fail to appear in court and what you can do to manage the consequences.
What Happens if You Fail to Appear in Court in Ontario?
In a general case, if you fail to appear in court in Ontario and elsewhere in Canada, there will be two possible scenarios. The judge will either order a bench warrant, which will lead to your arrest or will issue a discretionary bench warrant, adjourning the hearing to another day. In the latter case, you will not be detained the first time you fail to show up at your scheduled court date but will be arrested if it happens again.
In any case, you will need to know if there is a bench warrant against you. The best option is to speak to the lawyers and ask them to help you find it out and have the warrant cancelled or rescinded.
Another strategy would be to call the courthouse directly, speak to the clerk and try to cancel the warrant. You may also choose to go to court and try to settle this issue in person. However, in the latter case, there is a high chance that you will be arrested at the courthouse and held in custody for a bail hearing.
Failure to Appear in Family Court
Hearings in the Family Court are never easy, and failure to show up in the courtroom at the specified date only makes things worse. It is barely possible to win the case in your absence, and it will be even harder to challenge the decision of the court in this situation.
Judges have several options in case you don’t go for a hearing on a family matter. They can dismiss the proceedings, strike the claim, make an interim or final order, and even start contempt proceedings. Finally, a failure to appear in the Family Court may also render you liable to arrest and imprisonment.
Failure to Appear in Traffic Court
When you get a traffic ticket in Canada with a specified penalty amount, you have two options. You can either pay the penalty before the court date or go the court for a hearing.
Paying the fine is equivalent to pleading guilty, which relieves you of the necessity to show up at the court date. Meanwhile, if you choose not to pay and fail to appear, the judge can issue a warrant for your arrest.
Failure to Appear in Court for Criminal Charges
If you fail to attend court for criminal charges, it can be one of the worst scenarios. It will not only lead to arrest but also will make it harder to be released on bail. Instead, those who face criminal charges in Canada and are absolutely unable to appear on the court date should consider an opportunity to ask for an adjourned hearing to avoid liability.
Those interested in adjourning their criminal case should speak to experienced criminal lawyers in Toronto first to find if their case is tried summarily or by indictment. In the former case, there are good chances that the court may grant such a request and postpone the hearing for a later date. Meanwhile, adjourning the hearing for an indictable offence is much more complicated and not always advisable.
Lawful Excuse for Failure to Attend Court or Appear
Those who have missed their court date should have very good reasons for that to avoid criminal charges for failing to appear. Any court hearing takes not only your time but also the time of the judge, the clerk and the resources of the court system. For this reason, judges view failure to attend very seriously and consider it disrespectful toward the court.
Thus, an excuse for failure to show up at the court date for such reasons as, for example, common cold, school, work, or family situation would not be accepted. The only lawful excuses for failure to appear, which could be considered by the judge, include confirmed hospitalization or arrest.
What to Do if You Cannot Appear in Court?
There are various life situations when you can fail to show up at the court date. The good news is that, in some cases, you can send someone to the court to act for you or have the hearing rescheduled for a later date without getting a bench warrant.
Although you can ask a family member or a friend to act as your agent in a summary trial case, it is not the best solution. You will need to involve an experienced criminal lawyer to ensure professional legal representation and help you avoid arrest in case you fail to attend.
What Will Happen If You Have Already Missed Your Court Date?
If you failed to appear on your court date, in most situations, you would have a bench warrant directing police to arrest you. The police will either pick you up and make an arrest or detain you when you turn in to the station. You can find whether there is a bench warrant against you by calling the court or by asking your lawyer to do it for you.
If the court has already issued a bench warrant, you should arrange for turning yourself in to police. It is better to turn in yourself than wait until the police pick you up.
When you arrange to turn yourself in on the warrant, it is advisable to write down important phone numbers because your cell phone can be taken. It is also recommended to avoid bringing personal property that you are not prepared to leave with the police. You can ask someone to give you a ride to the station instead of taking your car to avoid arranging its pickup if you are not released.
Ask for Immediate Legal Assistance
If you failed to appear in court in Canada or got a bench warrant, you need to get in touch with a lawyer immediately. Contact Vilkhov Law in Toronto at 647-977-5852 or send us your details using the contact form, and our criminal defence team will be there to assist you.