Connecticut Failure To Appear Lawyer
You would think that missing a court appearance for your criminal case would not be such a big deal, right? Wrong. Connecticut police, prosecutors, and judges take failing to appear in the Norwalk, Bridgeport, Stamford, and Danbury criminal courts very seriously. In fact, Connecticut lawmakers even made it a felony if you fail to appear in court under certain circumstances. Yet in many cases, we have seen our clients have valid and legally justifiable excuses in their respective defenses against their 53a-172 and 53a-173 Failure to Appear charges.
Sometimes, they will get confusing information or verbal instructions from the Superior Court Clerk’s Office. Police cannot expect ordinary people to understand all the rules and nuances of the court process. Thus, if you have been charged with 53a-172 or 53a-173 FTA or Failure to Appear in Court in Stamford, Greenwich, Norwalk, Danbury, Darien or Bridgeport, then you should consult a top Connecticut Failure to Appear criminal lawyer right away to figure out whether it will be possible to clear these charges from your criminal record.
What’s the Difference between First Degree Failure to Appear and Failure to Appear in the Second Degree?
As the best FTA lawyers will inform you, a charge of Failure to Appear in the First Degree under CGS 53a-172 accuses you of willfully failing to appear in criminal court for your pending felony charge, or your pending violation of probation charge if you are on probation for conviction of a felony. It is a Class D Felony and punishable by a maximum of 5 years jail, $5000 fine, and probation.
The more common charge for missing your court date is Failure to Appear in the Second Degree under CGS 53a-173. To be guilty of this charge, you must willfully fail to appear for a criminal court date when charged with (1) a misdemeanor charge, (2) a motor vehicle violation which is punishable by jail, or (3) a violation of probation charge if you are on probation for a conviction of a misdemeanor. Failure to Appear in the Second Degree is a Class A misdemeanor which carries a maximum one year jail sentence, $2000 fine and probation. Whether you are charged with the felony or misdemeanor Failure to Appear crime, obviously the stakes are high, so be sure to contact a top Stamford Connecticut FTA criminal lawyer to discuss your options in defending yourself against these charges.
What Happens When I Receive a Letter to Appear in Court from the Office of the Connecticut Bail Commissioner?
Usually you are permitted to miss court once without getting charged for Failure to Appear in Court. In most cases, you will get this one free pass without any criminal repercussions unless you have prior Failure to Appear convictions in your criminal history. At the first missed court date, the State’s Attorney (also called the prosecutor or district attorney) calling your case will usually ask the Judge to order that a Bail Commissioner’s Letter (or “BCL”) be immediately sent to you at the address that the court has on file for you.
The Connecticut Bail Commissioner’s Office is the office at the courthouse that supervises every criminal defendant while they are released on bond. Each Bail Commissioner acts as an agent and arm of the Judiciary—meaning they act on behalf of all of the Superior Court judges who are assigned to preside over criminal cases. These Bail Commissioners—who are located in the Stamford, Norwalk, Bridgeport, and Danbury criminal courthouses—supervise each defendant released on bond and are tasked with ensuring that they are compliant with all conditions of release (such as counseling, alcohol treatment, and drug testing) and that they show up for court when ordered to do so.
What Happens if I Fail to Appear in Court After I Have Received a Bail Commissioner’s Letter?
This “Bail Commissioner’s Letter” or “BCL” will indicate that you failed to appear in court for your Connecticut felony or misdemeanor criminal charge and that you MUST appear at the next court date to avoid being charged with 53a-172 or 53a-173 Failure to Appear in Court. Don’t be misled by the fact you are receiving a typewritten form letter from the Bail Commissioner. If you receive a BCL, then you have run out of strikes. After receiving a BCL in your Norwalk, Danbury, Bridgeport, or Stamford criminal court case, if you miss court again, then you will likely be facing criminal charges for 53a-172 or 53a-173 First or Second Degree Failure to Appear.
It is on the second missed Connecticut court date that a judge revokes your bond on your pending case and issues a re-arrest warrant (also called a bench warrant) for 53a-172 or 53a-173 First or Second Degree Failure to Appear in court. After that, the police will begin looking for you at your residence or place of employment to arrest you for Failure to Appear in Court. There will be a separate bond set, and a separate arraignment will take place on the Failure to Appear Charge. Expect the bond to be much higher than your previous case, as the court now has little confidence that you will show up for your next court date. What will happen next is that all of your open and pending criminal charges—including the new Failure to Appear charge—will likely be consolidated and prosecuted aggressively by the Stamford, Norwalk, Bridgeport, or Danbury State’s Attorney’s Offices.
How to Fight Your Connecticut Failure to Appear (FTA) Charge
The best Greenwich, Danbury, Darien and Stamford criminal lawyers and attorneys will likely agree that the operative word in the 53a-173 Failure to Appear FTA statute is “willingly.” It will be very difficult for a jury to find you guilty of intentionally, knowingly, or willingly failing to appear for your Connecticut court date if you have a justifiable excuse for failing to appear. For example, if you were hospitalized, in prison, or can prove that you did not have notice of your court date, then you have justifiable grounds to consider fighting your Connecticut Failure to Appear charges.
We often see cases where, prior to hiring our law firm, our clients called the Norwalk, Bridgeport, Danbury or Stamford Superior Court to let them know they could not attend court and for whatever reason (and perhaps due to a misunderstanding or miscommunication), our clients were under the impression that their court date was rescheduled. We have seen some of the top Stamford Connecticut criminal lawyers and attorneys try to convince prosecutors and courts that, in circumstances like these, their clients did not intentionally ignore their court date and made good faith efforts to responsibly and diligently reschedule.
The criminal lawyers at Mark Sherman Law have similarly fought FTA cases using phone records and call logs to show that good faith efforts to reschedule were in fact attempted. We have also produced land records and other legal documents to the prosecutors and judges in efforts to convince prosecutors that our clients have moved or relocated and did not have adequate notice of their court date. As you can see, there are many variables that could affect the adequacy of notice, so we will dig deep into the facts and circumstances to craft the best defense to your Connecticut FTA charge.
Can Missing a Court Date for a Speeding Ticket / Motor Vehicle Infraction / Marijuana Possession Ticket Result in a Misdemeanor Charge for Failure to Appear?
Yes. In many circumstances, even blowing off a court appearance for a speeding ticket or moving violation ticket can trigger a 53a-173 Failure to Appear in the Second Degree charge. With the new marijuana decriminalization laws now in effect, police are handing out more and more marijuana tickets just as if they are speeding tickets, and we have seen many college students and teenagers plead “not guilty” by mail and then blow off their court date. Not so fast.
Not showing up for court dates for some of these speeding tickets, marijuana possession tickets, drug paraphernalia tickets, and other motor vehicle infractions and violations, can lead to a 53a-173 Failure to Appear in the Second Degree charge. Obviously this makes a bad situation much worse. So make sure you show up for court for these infraction and violation tickets, or you may end up getting arrested and locked up for a misdemeanor Failure to Appear charge.
Contact a Connecticut Failure to Appear Attorney at Mark Sherman Law Today
So if you are charged in Stamford, Danbury, Darien, New Canaan, Westport, Norwalk, Bridgeport or Fairfield Connecticut with Failure to Appear in Court in the First or Second Degrees under 53a-172 or 53a-173, call an experienced Stamford criminal lawyer at Mark Sherman Law today. We will help you through the surrender, bail, and arraignment process and work with you to design the best defense to your FTA charge possible under the individual circumstances of your FTA case. While the law is black and white, the application and interpretation of these laws can be presented in many shades of gray—many of which can help us give you the best chance of getting your Failure to Appear case dismissed. So don’t wait any longer — call us today. Our Connecticut failure to appear lawyers are available 24/7 to take your call.