Failure To Appear
Definition: Simply failing to appear for trial is another tactic commonly employed by those accused of DUI.
Executive Summary: Individuals who fail to show up to court or hearings are not always apprehended and brought to justice. This is commonly seen in misdemeanor cases such as DUI and operating on a suspended license. Worse still are cases where a person has been found guilty of DUI, is sentenced, and then fails to appear for a review of compliance with that sentence. Police do not always see this tactic as something that falls under their responsibility. Therefore, this is not an uncommon occurrence with offenders.
More Detail: It is important to stress the police response in the cases of such individuals. These cases can result in wasted resources if law enforcement fails to work with the courts to apprehend those DUI suspects/convicted failing to appear at court as ordered. One recommendation might be the establishment of a “warrant task force” to deal with this serious problem or a coordinated police/court program at specific times each year. Every year a concentrated effort can be employed by the police to get these people to appear before the courts.
It is also recommended that prosecutors/judges receive instruction on the contempt process and guidance on the procedural and constitutional issues a contempt proceeding involves. The contempt process is rarely used. Many prosecutors may view such proceedings as another chore to be added to an already busy list of duties. If persons found guilty and sentenced do not face relevant sanctions for not completing their sentences, then efforts of the criminal justice system – both before and during trial are for naught. Efforts of law enforcement and prosecutors to protect the public are undermined.
Estimates of the number of offenders who fail to appear in court at pre-trial, trial, or sentencing range from 10%- 30%, depending on the proximity of borders with other states or countries. A defendant who fails to appear in court can often evade prosecution and conviction, most often because the police are unable to locate them and return them to court. This is mostly attributed to the limited resources available for police to execute arrest warrants. A national survey of prosecutors reported that 22% of defendants fail to appear in court at some point in a typical DUI case, and 65% of prosecutors reported that this behavior was more common among repeat offenders. Cases involving absent defendants continue and remain on court calendars for extended periods, causing an increase in caseloads and further strain court resources. This may be more common in border states and in states with large immigrant populations where legal status is an issue.
One way to address this problem includes increasing penalties associated with failing to appear in court or to have judges refuse to release defendants on recognizance. By keeping offenders in custody, their appearance in court will be guaranteed.
Suggested Audience: Prosecutors, Judges
- NHTSA – A Study of Outstanding DUI Warrants (2001) C. H. Wiliszowski, C. E. Rodriguez-Iglesias, J. H. Lacey, R. K. Jones and E. Cyr Published 2001.
- DUI System Improvements for Dealing with Hard Core Drinking Drivers (Quick Reference Guide) (2006)