Nevada Laws re "Failure to Appear" (NRS 199.335)
Explained by Las Vegas Criminal Defense Lawyers

When defendants skip a court date in Nevada, the judge will probably issue a Nevada bench warrant for their arrest. Then if 30 days pass without either the defendants surrendering themselves or their defense attorneys getting the warrant quashed, the D.A. may bring an additional charge against the defendants for "failure to appear."1

The maximum penalties for "failure to appear" are:

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Skipping a mandatory court appearance is a crime in Nevada.

On this page our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss the Nevada crime of "failure to appear." Keep reading to learn its definition, what penalties it carries, and how to defend against allegations.

Definition of "Failure to Appear" in Nevada

Most people who are arrested in Nevada do not stay in jail very long. Often they can find a way to bail out or are released on their own recognizance. And of course in minor cases like traffic tickets, defendants just get a citation and are never booked in jail at all.

In exchange for not having to stay in jail while their charges play out, these defendants are instead ordered to show up to all future court hearings in their cases. Failure to appear at the specified time, date and place not only delays the underlying criminal case from getting resolved but also saddles the defendant with up to three additional consequences:

  1. In nearly every case where the defendant does not show up to court, the judge will issue a bench warrant for the defendants' arrest. This means they can be arrested at any time and brought into court;2 and
  2. In some cases, the judge may hold the defendant in Nevada criminal contempt, which may carry fines and extra jail time;3 and
  3. In rarer cases, the D.A. may bring another charge against the defendant for "failure to appear."4

Note that defendants cannot be charged with "failure to appear" in Nevada on the same day that the judge issues a bench-warrant. Thirty (30) days have to pass from the non-appearance without the defendant turning him/herself in before the D.A. can press "failure to appear" charges. Henderson criminal defense attorney Michael Becker illustrates this timetable rule with an example:

Example: Jerry misses his April 1st arraignment in Las Vegas Justice Court. The judge issues a bench warrant right away. Jerry has a long criminal record, so the Clark County D.A. wants to punish Jerry further by charging with him failure to appear. But the bench warrant will have to be out for at least 30 days until May 1st before the D.A. may bring "failure to appear" charges.

Also note that any defendant who fails to appear in court is vulnerable to "failure to appear" charges once the 30-day waiting period passes. It does not matter whether they paid bail by deposit or surety through a bondsman, or if they had an O.R. release.5

Finally, note that all defendants can be prosecuted for failure to appear in Nevada even if their missed court date was for a really minor infraction-type offense such as a traffic ticket. In practice though, it is rare for defendants charged with such low-level crimes to be charged with "failure to appear" as well.

Surrendering to Court in Nevada

After a defendant misses court in Nevada, he/she has 30 days to "surrender himself or herself" to avoid being charged with failure to appear. But if the defendant turns him/herself in at the police station, the cops will likely detain him/her in jail until the case gets in front of the judge again...and that may take several days if not longer.

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Defendants with Nevada bench warrants are encouraged to hire attorneys to try get the warrants quashed without the defendants having to appear in court.

Instead, defendants with a bench warrant are encouraged to hire private counsel. The attorneys can then ask the court to schedule a "bench warrant return hearing" within a couple of days. At that time the attorneys will appear in court and explain the reasons for the defendant's absence.

In many cases, a Nevada judge will agree to recall the warrant even if the defendant is not present in court. Then the judge will simply reset the original missed court hearing for another date. But sometimes the judge will require the defendant to be present with his/her attorneys before the judge will quash the bench warrant. This typically occurs in either of the following circumstances:

  • The defendant was charged with a felony.
  • The defendant has missed more than one court appearance.
  • The defendant has an extensive criminal history.
  • Several weeks or longer have passed since the bench warrant was issued. That is why it is important for defendants to retain counsel as soon as they realize they have a bench warrant...the sooner the defendant tries to get a warrant quashed, the better the chance the judge will comply.
  • The court date the defendant missed was very important, such as a Nevada trial or a Nevada sentencing. Judges are usually more lenient if the defendant missed a Nevada arraignment or a status check.

If the judge refuses to quash the warrant without the defendant there, then the defense attorneys will contact the defendant and discuss the option of asking the court for another "bench warrant return hearing" where the defendant will be present. But note that anytime a defendant appears in a Nevada court when there is a bench warrant out for him/her, there is always a risk that the judge may remand him/her into custody pending the outcome of the case.

Penalties for "Failure to Appear" in Nevada

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Penalties for "failure to appear" in Nevada include fines and possibly jail.

If the reason for the defendant's missed court appearance was because he/she fled the state with the intent to avoid prosecution, then the defendant faces "failure to appear" charges as a category D felony in Nevada. It does not matter if the underlying offense was very minor.6 The judge may order probation in lieu of incarceration, but the sentence can include:

  • 1 to 4 years in prison, and
  • maybe up to $5,000 in fines

But as long as the defendant did not deliberately flee Nevada in order to avoid prosecution, the punishment for "failure to appear" depends on the severity of underlying crime that the defendant is being prosecuted for:

Misdemeanor charge

If the defendant failed to appear in court on one or more misdemeanor charges, then he/she can be charged with "failure to appear" as a misdemeanor in Nevada. The sentence includes:

  • up to 6 months in jail, and/or
  • up to $1,000 in jail

Gross Misdemeanor charge

Meanwhile, if the defendant failed to appear in court on one or more gross misdemeanor charges, then he/she can be charged with "failure to appear" as a gross misdemeanor in Nevada. The sentence includes:

  • up to 364 days in jail, and/or
  • up to $2,000 in jail

Felony charge

Finally, if the defendant failed to appear in court on one or more felony charges, then he/she can be charged with "failure to appear" as a category D felony in Nevada. The maximum possible sentence is:

  • 1 to 4 years in Nevada State Prison, and
  • maybe up to $5,000 in fines

Note that the judge may grant probation instead of prison.7

Defenses for "Failure to Appear" in Nevada

If the defendant is facing felony "failure to appear" charges because he/she allegedly fled Nevada with intent to avoid prosecution, then there are two potential defenses:

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"Failure to appear" is a felony if the defendant fled Nevada with intent to avoid prosecution.
  1. No intent to avoid prosecution. Intent can be a difficult element for the D.A. to prove because it goes to state of mind. If there is insufficient evidence to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant went to another state to escape justice in Nevada, then the "failure to appear" charge may be dropped or possibly lessened to a gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor.
  2. No fleeing from Nevada. Perhaps law enforcement was mistaken that the defendant ever left the state. If the defense attorney can show that the defendant remained in Nevada, the "failure to appear" charge may be dismissed or potentially reduced to a gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor.

Otherwise, the best defense to fight "failure to appear" charges in Nevada is very case-by-case. The prosecution may agree to drop the charge if there were extenuating circumstances that made it impossible for the defendant to appear in court. North Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse gives an example of how extenuating circumstances may get a "failure to appear" charge dismissed:

Example: Mark misses his arraignment in North Las Vegas Justice Court. The judge issues a bench warrant. Thirty days pass without Mark turning himself in, so the D.A. brings "failure to appear" charges. As it turns out, Mark had gotten into a terrible car accident and was in a coma on the day he was due in court. Mark's family hires a defense attorney, who then explains to the D.A. that Mark was unconscious on the court date. The D.A. will likely drop the "failure to appear" charge because the non-appearance was not Mark's fault.

Other possible extenuating circumstances could be:

  • hospitalization for a serious condition,
  • a severe illness, or
  • death of a loved one

Though note that extenuating circumstances are not foolproof defenses to NRS 199.335 charges. The D.A. still has the discretion to prosecute even if the defendant had a reasonably good excuse not to appear in court.

Missed court in Nevada? Call us...

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Call us at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673).

If you missed a court appearance in Nevada, you almost certainly have a bench warrant and possibly charges for "failure to appear." Call our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a free consultation. If you are out-of-state, we may be able to get your warrant quashed without you having to come to court. We also may be able to avoiding "failure to appear" charges altogether.

If you have a failure to appear in California, please visit our page on Penal Code 1320 - Failure to Appear in California criminal cases and Vehicle Code 40508 VC - Failure to appear on a traffic matter.

Legal References

1NRS 199.335 Failure to appear after admission to bail or release without bail.

1. If a person:

(a) Is admitted to bail, whether provided by deposit or surety, or released without bail;

(b) Is not recommitted to custody; and

(c) Fails to appear at the time and place required by the order admitting him or her to bail or releasing him or her without bail, or any modification thereof,

-> the person is guilty of failing to appear and shall be punished pursuant to the provisions of this section, unless the person surrenders himself or herself not later than 30 days after the date on which the person was required to appear.

2. If a person who fails to appear in violation of subsection 1 was admitted to bail or released without bail incident to prosecution for:

(a) One or more felonies, the person is guilty of a category D felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130.

(b) One or more gross misdemeanors but no felonies, the person is guilty of:

(1) A gross misdemeanor; or

(2) If the person left this State with the intent to avoid prosecution, a category D felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130.

(c) One or more misdemeanors but no felonies or gross misdemeanors, the person is guilty of:

(1) A misdemeanor; or

(2) If the person left this State with the intent to avoid prosecution, a category D felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130.

2 NRS 178.508.

3 NRS 199.340.

4 NRS 199.335.

5Id.

6Id.

7Id.

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