What Happens If I Don’t Attend My First DUI Court Date?

Categories: Criminal Defense


Nobody leaves their house, gets in their car, and thinks, “Boy, I sure do hope I get a DUI today.” Just the letters DUI can result in some level of apprehension in many people. The cause of that is the likelihood that many people have driven while drunk or almost drunk at some point in their lives. So there is a sense of, “it could have been me,” or I sure am lucky that I “got away with it.”

But when you make a mistake in judgment and get into your car and drive after drinking, you may not be on the list of those who got away with it. You may find yourself arrested and charged with a DUI. This can be very scary for normally law-abiding citizens, and the fear leads some people to fail to show up for their initial court appearance. However, that is a horrible decision that will only lead to worsening consequences – so don’t do it. If you already have, then read on as we discuss the possible consequences of skipping out on your DUI court appearance.


Your first court appearance on your DUI case is the arraignment. An arraignment is usually a very short hearing, lasting only a couple of minutes. At this hearing, the judge will officially read the charges against you and ask you what you want to plead: guilty or not guilty.

At this early stage in the game, most people choose to plead not guilty, despite the evidence or particulars of their case. This is because time is needed for their attorney to gather discovery and determine if there is any defense that you could use to fight the case in trial. Maybe the police made a critical mistake that could get the case tossed – or at least make the prosecutor cut you a great deal. This collection of information takes some time, so many attorneys advise their clients to plead not guilty at this stage in the game.

Waiver of Appearance

First-time DUIs with no aggravating factors are charged as misdemeanor offenses in Colorado. Aggravating factors, that can get your charge enhanced to a felony, are if it is your fourth DUI and/or if any person was harmed or killed in an accident caused by your intoxication. Other than that, you are likely looking at a misdemeanor charge.

The arraignment for a misdemeanor can be handled in one of two ways:

  • You appear in court with your attorney (or alone if you don’t have representation yet) to hear the charges and enter a plea, or
  • Your attorney files a waiver of appearance on your behalf and handles the arraignment themselves.

So as long as you have gotten express permission from your attorney, it is OK not to appear for arraignment on your case. If you do not get express permission, you must show up or risk several unpleasant repercussions.

Failure to Appear

If you do not get a waiver of your appearance for arraignment, and you do not show up for court at the appointed date and time, then it is very likely that the judge will issue a bench warrant for your failure to appear (FTA). This means several things:

Your Warrant Is a Matter of Public Record

Keep in mind that arrest records are public records. Not only will your DUI be on your public record, but if you get a “failure to appear” bench warrant, that will be on your record as well. This means that every time you try to rent an apartment, buy a home, get a job, or any number of other actions where someone will search your record, this FTA will show up. So what does this mean?

Well, it means different things to different people and organizations. For instance, if you are trying to rent an apartment or home, the landlord may see your FTA and think that you are irresponsible. If you didn’t show up in court, how can he be sure that you will “show up” to pay rent on time? He may conclude that you are more likely than not to be irresponsible and may choose to rent to someone else. Of course, this is purely speculative, but it is important to know how this can affect you going forward. Likewise, if you are applying for a job that requires your boss to trust you, if they see the FTA on your record, it could cast a shadow on your perceived trustworthiness.

You Can Be Arrested

Once there is a bench warrant issued for you, be prepared to be arrested at any time until the warrant is taken care of or “quashed” by your attorney. Many people never even know that there is a warrant out for their arrest if they fail to appear for court. They know they missed a court date, but may not be aware that this means that there is a warrant out on them.

Having a warrant out for your arrest means that any interaction that you have with law enforcement will very likely end in a trip to jail. An active bench warrant gives officers the right to arrest you on the spot, should they come across you – even in the most innocent way.

For instance, say that you are out with a friend. She is driving and you are the passenger. She gets pulled over for speeding, and during the conversation that ensues, the officer asks you for your name and ID. The officer can then process your information through the police database and see that there is a warrant for your arrest. Despite the fact that you were doing nothing wrong, you will likely see a jail cell before the day is over.

Arrested for DUI? Get an Experienced Defense Attorney by Your Side

If you or a loved one has been arrested for DUI in Colorado, it is critical that you speak with an attorney as soon as possible – even before your arraignment. And if you have already failed to appear, we can put in a motion to quash the warrant so you’re not in danger of being arrested again. Having a lawyer by your side can help get a far better outcome for your case, and can make sure that your rights are fully protected.
A DUI can negatively influence your life for years to come. Trying to handle it yourself is risky. Call Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C. today for a free consultation, or fill out our online contact form. We look forward to helping you.

Mark Rubinstein

Attorney Mark S. Rubinstein has been practicing law for more than 30 years, including 25 years in Colorado. He founded Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C., in Carbondale after working for law firms in Denver and earlier in his career in San Diego. He focuses his practice in the areas of criminal defense and personal injury representation, and he is well known throughout western Colorado as an effective and unwavering advocate for his clients.