This is a phone call we get all the time, from people all over the state. It usually begins with “I moved away and just stopped going to court” or “I assumed it was all taken care of.” As time goes by, folks often get new jobs and want to clean up their past messes.
When a person fails to show up for court, the judge issues what is called a “Bond Forfeiture.” This is a revocation of whatever bond the individual was released from jail on, and the judge almost always issues a “capias” or warrant for the person. In real terms, what occurs is the court cannot proceed with resolving your case because they do not know where you are. Since you failed to show up, they are requesting that law enforcement bring you to the court so the case can proceed. In many instances this happens when you get pulled over for a random traffic stop, and then the officer finds your warrant when he checks the license. Then you get a speedy trip to the jail, and later, to court.
The better alternative is to hire an attorney, and then voluntarily turn yourself in. In many cases, the attorney may be able to clear up your bond forfeiture with the court and have your bond reinstated. You may also have to do what is referred to as a “walk-through,” which is a term for a voluntary surrender where the attorney already has the new bond in place. After the bond is cleared, the court will place your case back on the docket to be resolved where it left off.
On occasion, when a long period has elapsed since the bond was forfeited, you will also have to settle the civil suit on the old bond. For instance, if you had a $1000 personal bond that was revoked, then the county is coming after you for that $1000 since you no-showed. Most of the time the suit can be resolved for a fraction of the original bond amount, but if you take action early enough, the fee may be waived altogether. Keep in mind that, like tickets, warrants and bond forfeitures never go away. It is always better to address them directly with an attorney than to be picked up and taken to jail when you’re in the car with your kids, or mother, or co-worker.