Federal Failure to Appear

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If you are charged with a federal crime and released pending trial, or released while waiting to begin a sentence, you must show up at your next scheduled court date.  A Failure to Appear in Federal Court can make things a lot worse for you.

What will happen if I am on pretrial release and I fail to appear?

Criminal charge and punishmentFailure to appear in Federal Court is itself a crime under 18 U.S.C. 3146.  The punishment for an FTA charge varies depending upon the severity of the underlying charge for which a person is on pretrial release.
  • If the underlying charge is punishable by at least 15 years in prison, an FTA charge can be punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine.
  • When the underlying offense is punishable by a prison term of at least 5 years, an FTA is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine.
  • Underlying offense is any other felony, an FTA is punishable by up to 2 years in prison and a fine.
  • Underlying offense is a misdemeanor, an FTA is punishable by up to 1 year in prison and a fine.
  • If the person was released for appearance as a material witness, an FTA is punishable by up to 1 year in prison and a fine.
Any jail sentence for an FTA does not run concurrently with (at the same time) as the sentence for the charge. Meaning, you will do additional jail time aside from your conviction.Bond ForfeitureIf you posted a bond as a condition of your pretrial release, an FTA will effectively forfeit that bond.  In fact, you may forfeit the bond if you do not show up for court, even if you are not formally charged with an FTA.

What if I failed to appear because I had an emergency?

It is an affirmative defense to an FTA charge ifuncontrollable circumstances prevented the person from appearing or surrendering.”  But, you must not have contributed to the creation of these circumstances. And you must appear as soon as the circumstances end.What if I didn’t know about my court date?The FTA statute makes it a crime to “knowingly” fail to appear.  So, an honest mistake may be enough for an attorney to argue against a FTA charge, but you cannot actively try to avoid notice of a court date and then try to use lack of notice as a defense.

Should I get an attorney?

Yes. If you did not appear for a court hearing or to report to serve a sentence, you should consult with an attorney who can advise how to best proceed.