A Failure to Appear (FTA) is the legal term commonly used in Illinois and Iowa courts for a defendant not showing up to court as scheduled. An FTA can cause significant problems for a defendant.
Criminal cases in Illinois and Iowa involve a series of court dates that the defendant (the person charged with a crime) must personally attend. Personal attendance is required both because having the defendant present is necessary to handle various aspects of the case, and also because the court wishes to ensure that the defendant hasn’t fled from justice. When a defendant does not appear for court, it is called a Failure to Appear (FTA).
The circuit court (in Illinois) or district court (in Iowa) judge has a variety of options to deal with an FTA. The nicest course of action that the judge can take for the Defendant is to simply schedule another court date, so as to give the defendant another chance to appear for court without being punished for missing court. The judge can also revoke bond that has been previously posted, or issue a warrant for the defendant’s arrest. In some cases, the judge can also find the defendant guilty by default (this is often done in traffic court, but rarely in more serious cases).
Which of those options the judge chooses to impose depends upon a variety of factors, and the personality of the judge as well. A defendant who fails to appear on a relatively minor case, during a blizzard, is less likely to see a warrant issued for their arrest than a defendant who doesn’t appear for a pretrial conference on an arson case. Some judges are known for being more lenient and giving defendants a second chance to appear, while others are very quick to issue warrants with high bond amounts. In general, the court systems in Iowa and Illinois do not treat a defendant’s failure to appear very kindly.
Defendants in criminal cases are well advised to appear for court as scheduled, and to contact their attorney if there is some reason that they miss or anticipate missing court.