FTA: Maryland Courts' Least Favorite Letters

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If you have ever had the pleasure of sitting through the morning or afternoon docket at your local Maryland or Virginia District Court you would start to realize that certain phrases tend to repeat themselves. Nolle prosequi, probation before judgment and guilty with an explanation, are just a couple phrases that are used regularly in criminal and traffic court. One of the phrases that may be used more than any other by a judge is often said in the form of an acronym. A defendant's name is called and no one comes forward; "FTA", the judge will say followed by the inevitable issue of a bench warrant. FTA stands for failure to appear. I like to think that the majority of people know what FTA is and the consequences it carries. I am not sure if my belief is well founded.

The reason for my doubt is the massive amount of people who are FTA in Maryland criminal and traffic courts. Sometimes more than half of the criminal and traffic docket will be FTA. Failing to appear is terrible on so many levels. When you fail to appear the court will issue a bench warrant. In really simple terms that means the next time law enforcement comes across you, they can throw you in jail. Not to mention that the renewal of any license or registration with MVA will be impossible. Failure to appear can make relatively minor problems major and major problems borderline catastrophic. Many times I think defendant's do not show up for court because they are afraid of going to jail. That is similar to believing that the noise your car is making will fix itself without the help of a mechanic. Chances are your car will break down and the repairs will be far more expensive. What I mean is the odds of going to jail will skyrocket. In fact, if you are picked up on an FTA, even for a minor charge, you will likely be held without bail until you see a judge.

There is always a chance that the officer who issued the ticket or arrested you may not be present for court. If that is the case someone who failed to appear missed a golden opportunity. When the officer doesn't appear the verdict will be Not Guilty (as long as you plead not guilty which is a whole different topic). If you are charged with a serious criminal or traffic offense in Maryland or Virginia, find an experienced criminal defense lawyer to protect your rights and ease your anxiety. If you have failed to appear for a criminal or traffic offense in Maryland or Virginia, a criminal defense lawyer can help "quash" the warrant and request a "show cause hearing" which will help a defendant avoid jail time. At the very least show up. Showing up is half the battle.

If you, a family member, or someone you know has been charged with a failure to appear please feel free to contact our office for a free legal consultation and find out what your options are. You can also visit us on the web at http://www.portnerandshureaccidentlawyers.com.

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