Have You Missed Your Criminal Or Traffic Court Hearing? - What To Do

Author's Note: This article only pertains to misdemeanor criminal and traffic cases in Virginia that occur before the General District Courts.

This is something that happens to a lot of people. Schedules get mixed up. People oversleep. Traffic is a nightmare and you just can't get to court before your criminal or traffic case is called. So, you have missed your court date: What do you do?

First, don't panic.

Next, go - in person - to the clerk's office of the court where your criminal or traffic case was scheduled to find out what happened in your case. Usually, you will have been tried in your absence or the case was continued to another date and a warrant has been issued for your arrest because you failed to appear in court. If you were tried in your absence, find out what the court ordered as your punishment. If it is only a fine and costs, and is within your budget to pay, you have fifteen days to pay it to avoid suspension of your privilege to drive in Virginia for non-payment.

Now, if an arrest warrant has been authorized you will need to take immediate steps: File a motion to withdraw the arrest warrant. If you have an attorney, bonding company, or supervised release counselor, notify them as soon as possible what has happened and to explain what you have done to correct the situation.

Remember, the success of this motion depends on how quickly you take steps to correct the mistake of not appearing before the court at the scheduled date and time.

If you feel that the punishment ordered by the court in your case, you have the right to appeal for a new trial before the Circuit Court of the county or city where the case was heard. Remember - you have only ten days from the date of your conviction to file an appeal and you have to do it in person at the clerk's office. If more than ten days have passed since your conviction before the General District Court then your opportunity to appeal for a new trial has been lost.

Last, if you are beyond the time for an appeal to the Circuit Court (or if you don't want to appeal), you may wish to consider filing a Motion To Rehear. Whether the court grants this motion is entirely in its discretion and filing a motion to rehear will not extend your time to file an appeal. If the judge grants your motion, a new trial will be scheduled on a later date. However, if the judge denies your motion, and you are past the ten days of the initial conviction date, then your conviction will be final.