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Understanding Court Absence and Reframing "Failure to Appear"

JSP Staff

Even across sites using various strategies to help people get to court as scheduled, individuals still do not appear for court and receive a warrant issued by a judge (bench warrant) for their arrest. When these individuals encounter police again, even for minor traffic offenses, the bench warrant requires police arrest and return the individual to jail where they experience, again, the compounding impacts of incarceration. Not appearing in court as scheduled, even one time, can have lasting impacts on an individual.

Courts need a better understanding about why people do not get to court as scheduled. With this shared knowledge, courts can design more thoughtful strategies to meaningfully help people attend court, reconsider the scale of bench warrants for non-appearance, and reduce the legal system’s footprint on people and the community.

This report summarizes findings in Lake County, IL that explore the research questions:

(1) What barriers do individuals face when trying to get to court as scheduled?

(2) What services or supports would help individuals get to court as scheduled?

(3) Do notification systems and virtual court proceedings help individuals get to court as scheduled?