Failure To Appear

Definition: Convictions matter.   Individuals who were acquitted or whose case was nolle prosequied, either because of delay or the defendant failing to appear, have higher re-arrest rates than those who had been convicted.

Executive Summary: A study of first offender impaired driving recidivism found  that those who were acquitted were 64% more likely to recidivate and those whose cases were nolle prosequied were 28% more likely to recidivate than those who were convicted.

More Detail: It is important to stress the police response in the cases of such individuals. Cases that result in an acquittal or nolle prosequi waste resources if law enforcement has failed to adequately prepare their case.  One recommendation might be to better train new prosecutors who are generally assigned to these types of cases in the intricacies of a impaired driving case. It is also recommended that there be an established “warrant task force” to deal with defendants who failed to appear using 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.

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 or bench 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 in open case files for extended periods, causing an increase in caseloads and further strains on court resources. This may be more common in border states and in states with large immigrant populations where legal status may be an issue.

One way to address this problem includes increasing penalties associated with failing to appear in court Although in some instances there is a right to bail or release on one’s own recognizance, certainly multiple offenders court receive more scrutiny before being released. When judges and prosecutors take DUI offenses more seriously than offenders may do so as well.


Suggested Audience: Prosecutors, Judges


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