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What should I do if I never got a notice about my court date?

After an arrest, the police or judge may issue a notice for a court hearing. However, the court may later send a notice by mail. Unfortunately, sending notice of a criminal court hearing by mail is not always a guarantee that the defendant will receive notice. If you never received notice of a court date, it could mean that there will be no charges filed or that there is a court date you may not know about.

If there is a court hearing and you never get a notice, you may end up with a failure to appear warrant and get arrested. If you are expecting a court hearing and never get a notice, call the court or contact an experienced East Bay DUI lawyer to clear up the situation and avoid a warrant for your arrest.

Court Hearing After Arrest or Arraignment

In most California DUI cases and other misdemeanor arrests, the defendant will receive notice of their next court hearing during the arraignment, when formal charges are presented. However, the district attorney (DA) or judge may put off the next court hearing to provide more time for the DA to decide whether to file formal charges. This may mean any notice of a hearing will be provided by mail.

Unfortunately for anyone looking to deal with unknown criminal charges, there may not be a clear timeline for if and when the prosecutor will issue formal charges. In general, the DA has one year from the date of arrest to file formal misdemeanor charges (there is more time to file felony charges). This means that someone arrested on suspicion of a DUI could wait 365 days to see whether or not they are going to be formally charged with a crime.

If there is no notice of a court hearing and not court hearing set within a year, generally this means that the individual will not be criminally charged for the misdemeanor. However, it is a good idea to contact an attorney to confirm that there are no charges and no charges can later be filed.

“I never got anything in the mail!”

There are all kinds of problems with mail service and no real way to figure out who is responsible for an unreceived notice. The judge is also likely to side with the prosecutor or court clerk who claims they sent the notice. Even if the notice was sent, there are plenty of valid reasons why the defendant never received notice, including:

  • Notice is lost in the mailroom,
  • Notice is lost by the post office,
  • Notice was damaged and undeliverable,
  • Notice is delivered to the wrong address,
  • Court has the wrong address on file,
  • Someone stole the defendant's mail, or
  • Someone else picked up the defendant's mail and threw out the notice.

Missing the Court Date  

If there was a hearing set and the defendant never receives notice, the judge will generally issue a Failure to Appear (FTA). The court will not try and use another way to contact you like calling or sending an email. If you do not appear for a court hearing, the court will issue an FTA. Failure to appear can be its own criminal offense, a misdemeanor under California Vehicle Code 40508.

Failing to appear can also result in a driver's license suspension, fine, and bench warrant for your arrest. Unfortunately, many people only learn about their court hearing through a notice that they did not appear. Clearing up an FTA can be a challenge because showing up to court to clear the FTA may mean you end up under arrest!

The best way to clear up a missed court date, whether or not you received notice, is to contact an experienced California lawyer who can clear up the FTA and give you a chance to respond to your DUI or other criminal charges.

East Bay DUI Defense Attorney Lynn Gorelick

 East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 30 years of California criminal defense experience and has helped clients who were never given notice of their court hearing. If you do not get a court date after an arrest or get notice of an FTA, contact Lynn Gorelick today.

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