ARS § 13-2506 and § 13-2507 are the Arizona statutes on the crime of failure to appear. You commit this offense if you knowingly fail to appear in court in connection with either a felony or a misdemeanor offense, or when they fail to appear in court after giving a written promise to do so.
Depending on the facts of the case, violating these laws can lead to a Class 5 felony charge punishable by over two years in state prison.
Arizona law divides the crime of failure to appear into two degrees:
- first degree, per ARS 13-2507, and
- second degree, per ARS 13-2506.
The language of ARS § 13-2507 states that:
A. A person commits failure to appear in the first degree if, having been required by law to appear in connection with any felony, such person knowingly fails to appear as required, regardless of the disposition of the charge requiring the appearance.
B. Failure to appear in the first degree is a class 5 felony.
The language of ARS § 13-2506 states that:
A. A person commits failure to appear in the second degree if, having either:
1. Been required by law to appear in connection with any misdemeanor or petty offense, the person knowingly fails to appear as required, regardless of the disposition of the charge requiring the appearance.
2. Given a written promise to appear in court or been personally served with a written notice to appear on a designated date pursuant to section 13-3903, the person thereafter fails to appear, personally or by counsel.
B. Failure to appear in the second degree pursuant to subsection A, paragraph 1 of this section is a class 1 misdemeanor. Failure to appear in the second degree pursuant to subsection A, paragraph 2 of this section is a class 2 misdemeanor.
- pleading guilty to theft, but not returning to court for the sentencing hearing.
- knowingly missing an arraignment after being charged with aggravated assault.
- failing to appear for a traffic court date after a charge of speeding.
People can challenge criminal charges under these statutes with a legal defense. A few common defenses include defendants showing that:
- they did not act knowingly,
- they did not receive a notice to appear, and/or
- there was an emergency.
Failure to appear in the first degree is a Class 5 felony punishable by two-and-a-half years in state prison.
Most failure to appear in the second-degree convictions are Class 1 misdemeanors punishable by up to six months in jail.
In this article, our criminal defense attorneys will discuss what the law is under these statutes, defenses available if charged, the penalties for a conviction, and related crimes.
1. How does Arizona law define “failure to appear”?
In the State of Arizona, people are guilty of failure to appear in the first degree if they:
- knowingly fail to appear in an Arizona court or fail to make a scheduled court date, and
- do so in connection with any felony charge/offense.i
People are guilty of failure to appear in the second degree if they:
- knowingly fail to appear in court or fail to make a court hearing, and
- do so in connection with any misdemeanor charges/offense.ii
People are also guilty of second-degree failure to appear if they:
- fail to appear in court, and
- do so after giving a written promise to appear or after receiving a written notice to appear.iii
As to written promises to appear in court, people often make these after certain petty offenses or traffic stops. These may include stops for:
- a car accident,
- driving without a driver’s license,
- a traffic ticket or traffic violation, and
- driving under the influence (DUI).
2. Are there defenses to ARS 13-2507 & 13-2506?
Criminal defense lawyers draw upon several legal strategies/disclaimers to help defendants contest charges under these statutes. Three common ones include lawyers showing that:
- the defendant did not knowingly miss a court date.
- the defendant did not receive a notice to appear.
- there was an emergency.
2.1 No knowledge
Recall that people are only guilty under these laws if they knowingly miss a court appearance. This means it is always a defense for accused people to show that they did not fail to appear on purpose. Perhaps, for example, a defendant overslept or got caught in traffic.
2.2 No notice to appear
In some cases, defendants are only aware that they must appear in court if they receive a notice of appearance from the court. Therefore, defendants can try to assert that they never received this notice. To rebut this defense, though, the court clerk can provide a copy of any appearance sent to the accused.
This is a similar defense to a no-knowledge defense. Judges often dismiss a failure to appear charge if an accused has a good reason for not making it into court. One such reason is that an emergency prevented the defendant from appearing. Maybe, for example, the accused suffered from a sudden medical condition or had to rush a loved one to the hospital.
3. What are the penalties?
Failure to appear in the first degree is a Class 5 felony. The maximum sentence for the crime is two and a half years in state prison.
Failure to appear in the first degree is either a Class 1 misdemeanor or a Class 2 misdemeanor.
While a Class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by a jail sentence of up to six months, a Class 2 misdemeanor is punishable by a jail term of up to four months.
Further, in addition to prison/jail time, a judge will typically issue a bench warrant against the person that fails to appear in court. A bench warrant authorizes a police officer to arrest the defendant and bring that person to court.
Bench warrants are distinct from arrest warrants. Further, if persons have an outstanding warrant against them, they must appear in court to quash it (or get it nullified).
4. Are there related offenses?
There are three crimes related to failure to appear. These are:
- interfering with judicial proceedings – ARS 13-2810,
- obstruction of justice – ARS 13-2409, and
- perjury – ARS 13-2702.
4.1 Interfering with judicial proceedings – ARS 13-2810
Under ARS 13-2810, interfering with judicial proceedings is the crime where people commit some act or fail to commit an act in relation to a court proceeding.
For example, a person can violate this law by engaging in disorderly, disrespectful, or insolent behavior during a court session.
As with second-degree failure to appear, a violation of this law is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
4.2 Obstruction of justice – ARS 13-2409
Per ARS 13-2409, obstruction of justice is the offense where people attempt to disrupt or prevent the communication of information regarding a crime to a police officer or prosecutor.
As with failure to appear, this statute can apply to both misdemeanor and felony offenses depending on the facts of the case.
4.3 Perjury – ARS 13-2702
Under ARS 13-2702, perjury is the crime where people:
- make either a false sworn statement or a false unsworn declaration regarding a material issue, and
- do so while believing the statement/declaration is false.
A violation of this statute is a more serious crime than failure to appear. Perjury is charged as a Class 4 felony.
- ARS 13-2507A. See also State v. Rhone, 235 Ariz. 459 (2014).
- ARS 13-2506A1.
- ARS 13-2506A2.