Getting arrested for DUI does not mean you will be convicted. Police misconduct, defective breathalyzers and crime lab mistakes may be enough to get your charges lessened or dismissed. Visit our page on Colorado DUI Laws to learn more.
“Failure to Appear” in Colorado – What are the consequences?
What is the crime of "failure to appear" in Colorado? 3 Things to Know
People who miss a required court date in Colorado – called failure to appear (FTA) – will likely have a bench warrant issued for their arrest. Also, the Colorado DMV may suspend the person’s driver’s license while the warrant is outstanding.
Even if the judge later recalls the warrant, the judge may impose additional conditions on the person such as higher bail. People on probation who fail to show up to court risk having their probation revoked and being remanded to jail.
Do I have to appear for my court date?
It depends on the case. Defendants in Colorado criminal cases who do not have their own attorney usually have to appear for every court appearance. They cannot rely on their public defender to appear on their behalf. But defendants who have a private criminal defense attorney may be able to skip some minor court dates as long as the attorney shows up.
Note that defendants may be able to skip a traffic ticket court date for a minor traffic violation as long as they pay the fine ahead of time. But defendants always have to appear in person at such proceedings as preliminary hearings and trials.
If a person is unsure about whether a court appearance is required, he/she should call the court clerk ahead of time and ask. If a person knows that he/she cannot make the next court appearance, that person should call the court clerk as soon as possible: The clerk may be able to reschedule the hearing.
If the defendant named in a bench warrant is facing only misdemeanor criminal charges and no felony charges, it is unlikely that law enforcement officers will go out and try to track down the defendant. But police officers will not hesitate to arrest anyone they pull over for traffic stops who turns out to have outstanding warrants.
Sometimes judges issue bench warrants that allow the person to bail out if and when they get arrested. But other times judges issue no bail bench warrants. This means that if the person named on the warrant gets arrested, he/she must remain in custody until at least the next court hearing. And if the judge decides to keep the defendant in custody throughout the rest of the case, then any bail the defendant initially posted could be subject to forfeiture – and the defendant will never get it back.1
(Note that a bench warrant is different from an arrest warrant. Judges issue bench warrants at any time during a criminal case to punish the disobedience of court orders. In contrast, judges issue arrest warrants only at the beginning of a case, and they can only issue arrest warrants pursuant to a request from law enforcement.)
How do I clear up a bench warrant?
People with outstanding bench warrants in Colorado should contact an attorney as soon as possible. The attorney can file a “motion to quash” the warrant. The court will then schedule a court hearing.
The person named in the warrant usually needs to appear at these warrant quash hearings. The judge will ask for the person’s excuse for missing court, and the criminal defense attorney will argue for lifting the warrant. Judges typically do recall bench warrants at these hearings as long as the person does not have a long history of missing court.
Possibly. If a Colorado judge recalls a bench warrant for a defendant who failed to appear in court, the judge can stiffen that person’s pretrial release conditions. Common conditions include:
Higher bail, or imposing bail if the person was initially granted own recognizance release (a.k.a. OR release, PR bond or signature bond);
No travel orders;
Drug and alcohol testing; and/or
Wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet2
Will I lose my driver’s license for missing court?
Probably. When a judge issues a bench warrant for a no-show, the court informs the Colorado DMV. The DMV will then suspend the person’s license on an OJW hold (short for Outstanding Judgment Warrant). The license will remain suspended until the person can show the court cleared the warrant.3
Will I be found in contempt of court for missing court?
Yes. Colorado courts hold people in contempt for disobeying court orders, which include the order to show up to future court appearances. Depending on the case, the punishment for being in contempt – aside from issuing a bench warrant – can include
What happens if I was on probation and I miss court?
A condition of being out on probation in Colorado is showing up to all required court hearings. So missing court is technically a probation violation.
Defendants accused of violating their probation are entitled to a probation revocation hearing. Depending on the case and recommendations by the probation officer, the judge may reinstate probation and give the probationer another chance. Sometimes the judge will increase the terms of probation. But in other cases, the judge will revoke probation completely and order the person to serve prison or jail time for the underlying criminal offense.5
Call our DUI and criminal law firm for legal advice.
Our experienced Colorado criminal defense lawyers create attorney-client relationships throughout the state of Colorado, including Denver, Colorado Springs, Greeley, and more.
Disclaimer: Past results do not guarantee future results.
Colorado Revised Statute 16-2-110 CRS (“If a person upon whom a summons or summons and complaint has been served pursuant to this part 1 fails to appear in person or by counsel at the place and time specified therein, a bench warrant may issue for his arrest.“); see also People v. Caro (Colo. 1988) 753 P.2d 196.
Michael Becker has over a quarter-century's worth of experience as an attorney and more than 100 trials under his belt. He is a sought-after legal commentator and is licensed to practice law in Colorado, Nevada, California, and Florida.