What Happens if the Officer Doesn't Show?
A lot of people think that traffic cases are automatically dismissed if the officer doesn’t come to court. And they think we can continue the case to make the officer less likely to show up. Unfortunately, those are basically traffic defense myths, at least for Virginia traffic cases.
I’ve had the video transcribed below for visitors who prefer to read the content.
Hello, I’m Andrew Flusche.
A lot of clients ask me what will happen if the officer doesn’t show up to court when you have a traffic ticket like speeding or reckless driving or something like that. Unfortunately, as a lot of things in law, the answer depends.
Generally, in Virginia, the officers have one day per month when they’re in each court. Now that rule does vary depending upon the county or the court where your case is pending in. But that’s kind-of the average rule that they have a regularly scheduled court date each month in each court.
So if the officer doesn’t show up for his court date, usually what happens is they will call in with some reason. Such as they are sick or perhaps a death in the family. Or some official duties that pulled them away. Some of the State Troopers sometimes get pulled away due to some kind of emergency, and the same things happen with the local sheriff’s deputies.
If the case hasn’t been continued by the Commonwealth before and the officer has called into the court or faxed in a letter with some kind of reasonable excuse for why they aren’t there, most judges that I know will continue the case to the officer’s next court date. So it’s not going to result in an automatic dismissal.
But if the officer simply doesn’t show up and doesn’t call. And the court or the clerks try to reach them and they can’t, then most judges will dismiss the case. But honestly that’s a very rare occurrence.
Most of the time, the officer is present in court because they have lots of other cases that day. So they’re gonna be there to handle all their cases. And if they’re not there for some reason, it’s because they have some kind-of reasonable excuse to not be there. And just like if the defendant called in to the court sick or having had car trouble and couldn’t get there, the judge would usually give you a continuance, he’s going to give the same courtesy to the officer if the officer has notified the court about why they’re not there. Some judges won’t do that, though. So it could be your lucky day, even if the officer has fallen ill. Some judges might still dismiss the case.
Tied to this traffic myth that if the officer doesn’t show up the case will be dismissed is the idea of continuing your case to try to make it more likely that the officer won’t show up. But if you go back to what I said at the beginning of this video that the officer usually has a regular court date each month in each court, if a case is continued either by the court, or the officer, or by the defendant, then the continuance will be to the officer’s next regular court date, in almost all cases.
So we’re not going to be able to put your case on some random day where the officer doesn’t have any other cases in court. And thus, he’s going to have other cases, and he’s going to have a strong incentive to be there. Not to mention the fact that his supervisor will make sure that he’s there. Because that’s his job.
In Virginia, the officer is usually in court. And if he’s not in court, it’s maybe because he has some kind of reasonable excuse or reason for not being there. And in those instances, the case will be continued.
If he doesn’t show up and he doesn’t call in, in a lot of cases that would be a dismissal. But it’s not going to be a dismissal if you’re not there and you don’t have an attorney there. So if you don’t show up and the officer doesn’t show up, the judge would just continue the case. So that is at least a little incentive for you to come to court or hire an attorney to come to court for you.