Saturday, December 10, 2011

How Failing to Appear Can Turn You into a Fugitive


Most of us would never imagine the word fugitive could apply to us simply because we forgot about a traffic ticket. Unfortunately, this is not the case. A missed court date, even if it is for a minor traffic infraction, can land you in plenty of trouble. Should you neglect to appear for your court date, a Houston arrest warrant will be issued for you, meaning the police have the right to arrest you at any time or any place. While it’s true that the police generally don’t have the time or resources to run around a huge city banging on doors in an attempt to arrest every person who has neglected a traffic ticket, they do have that option.

In fact, for a failure to appear on a relatively minor matter, the police may not even bother to go to your home—but don’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet. Suppose you are driving to work, or taking your child to school, and a police officer pulls you over because of a cracked taillight or some other minor infraction. Once he runs your license the Harris County arrest warrant will become evident and he will likely take you into custody. If there is no one with you your vehicle may be towed and impounded, or if you have children with you the situation can get even uglier. If you are unable to find someone to come and pick up your children they could possibly be taken by Children’s Protective Services until the matter is resolved.

Facing the Additional Charges
A Failure to Appear charge is considered a separate criminal offense from the original traffic offense which required your presence in court. If a City of Houston arrest warrant was issued for your failure to appear and you are aware of the warrant, hire an attorney immediately before you have made further mistakes. The attorney can post a Harris County traffic bond on your behalf, although you can also do this directly or go through a bail bondsman. If you take care of the warrant immediately, then you avoid being arrested while you are having dinner with your family or sitting at your desk at work. Once your Harris County bond has been posted, a new court date will be set—a court date that you absolutely must not miss. Some judges will be lenient on a first Failure to Appear, but they will not look so kindly on you when it happens a second time.

What if My Ticket is Years Old?
You may feel relatively safe if the ticket you received and the court date you missed are many years behind you, but don’t congratulate yourself just yet. As with most things in life, a Harris County arrest warrant can come back to haunt you when you least expect it. If you are considered a fugitive from the law—and make no mistake, if there is a Houston arrest warrant with your name on it, you are a fugitive—then you could be arrested even decades after the original ticket was issued.

Getting the Legal Help You Need
If you are aware that you have an old Harris County arrest warrant hanging over your head you have some legal options that an experienced defense attorney may be able to implement. For example, the attorney could argue on your behalf that the original charges are no longer able to be proven since police officers move on and evidence disappears over time. The attorney could also attempt to quash the Harris County arrest warrant on your behalf without the necessity of you being present or may negotiate a deferred adjudication. The take-away is that in order to no longer be considered a fugitive from the law, you must take action and that action will likely be more effective with an attorney by your side.  
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Author: Andrew Sullo
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Andrew Sullo

Andrew SulloAndrew Sullo

Andrew Sullo is a National Trial Lawyer's Top 100 Selection for 2013-2019. He is a member of the American Association of Justice (2013-2019), and a recipient of the 2019 AVVO Client's Choice Award.

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