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Robert F. Rider, PLC
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Why it does not pay to blow off your traffic court date

At Robert F. Rider, PLC, in Virginia, we realize that you can sometimes miss a court date through no fault of your own. We also realize, however, that when a lot of people get a traffic ticket, they fail to take it as seriously as they should. They seem to think that if they treat it with benign neglect, eventually it will simply disappear.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, per the Fairfax County District Court, if you fail to show up at your scheduled traffic court hearing, the judge can choose one of two things to do: (s)he can go ahead with your trial even though you are not there or (s)he can issue a bench warrant.

Bench warrant

A bench warrant is a warrant for your arrest that the judge issues from the bench, i.e., the platform on which (s)he sits while presiding over the courtroom. Be aware that a bench warrant is just as valid as any other kind of warrant and puts you at risk for being arrested any time, any place. Admittedly, it is quite unlikely that law enforcement officials will show up at your door and arrest you due to your failure to appear in court on a traffic ticket, but this could happen, especially if your alleged traffic offense was a serious one.

Usually, however, you get arrested the next time you get pulled over for an alleged traffic violation. Officers routinely check to see if you have any outstanding warrants when they pull you over. Once they discover the outstanding bench warrant, they can arrest you and take you to jail.

Trial in absentia

It probably surprises you to learn that a judge can try you – and find you guilty – even when you are not present in court at the time. Nevertheless, this can happen if you fail to appear at your traffic hearing. The judge can listen to all the evidence against you, which the officer who issued your traffic ticket will be right there to testify to. Since you did not see fit to come to court and defend yourself, the judge likely will find you guilty of the traffic offense and fine you accordingly, plus adding court costs. You can then expect to receive a notice in the mail demanding that you pay the fine and court costs within 30 days.

For further information, please see this page of our website.

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