Prosecutors Use Being Late to Court to Pressure Defendants in Connecticut

Nearly 1 in 10 convictions in Connecticut, not involving motor vehicles, over the past five years include failure to appear. A woman appealing her conviction for failure to appear failed to wake up from nap and arrived in court forty five minutes late. She was convicted of felony failure to appear. It was the only court date she missed out of 45 appearances covering three years. She successfully defended herself, getting her drug charges dismissed. After a full day at work, the day before, she had delivered newspapers from 1am to 8am. Prosecutors argued that she should have known better than to work all night before a court appearance.

Connecticut’s appellate court overturned her conviction for failing to appear, but the State is appealing to the Connecticut Supreme Court. A senior state attorney said that the appellate court’s decision “set a bad example.”

At least 30 states treat failure to appear a standalone crime. Due to a lack of statistics, it is difficult to assess how many states use failure to appear as a prosecutorial safety net.

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