What happens if I am late for my court hearing?
The short answer to this question is:
Don’t be late for court.
Although you may be able to call the court and request permission to show up late, there is no guarantee that you will be able to find your department’s phone number, that a clerk will be available to take your call, that the court will grant your request, or that the judge will be on the bench when you arrive late. And you certainly want to “stay on the right side” of the court personnel in your case.
We have set out below a few stories of what can happen to somebody who is late for court:
Years ago, there was a judge in a Riverside County courtroom, Judge Sullivan if memory serves, who took the bench exactly on time every day. For his 8:00 a.m. cases, he called the first case at 8:00 a.m. You literally could set your watch by the time the judge took the bench (we all wore watches back then). If the party or attorney was not present, the judge set a future hearing to have the absent party show why he should not be “sanctioned” (fined) for failing to appear in court on time.
Then there was the woman who had a trial date for her traffic citation. At the appointed date and time, she had not yet arrived. But the officer who observed the violation and wrote the citation was not present either. In this particular traffic court, if the officer is not present when the case is called, and the driver is present, the case is immediately dismissed and the driver is free to go, without any conviction or fine. Accordingly, if the driver had been there when the case was first called, her case would have been dismissed. Since there are separate penalties for a driver who does not appear in court, the traffic court commissioner delayed the trial to the end of the calendar to give the driver time to arrive. By the time the case was called again some 30 minutes later, both the driver and the officer had arrived. At trial, the driver was found guilty, and, of course, suffered the consequences of having to pay a fine and having a violation on her record.
The information in this blog is general in nature. The law is constantly changing, and exceptions, and exceptions to exceptions, run rampant throughout the legal system. Every case is different. You are advised to contact an attorney with any questions you may have about your individual case.