A litigant who wants to reschedule or continue a court date in Florida should ask their attorney to do so on their behalf. Alternatively, they can contact the judge or clerk of court to ask for a continuance of their case. Different Florida courts, such as civil traffic court and adult criminal court, have different rules on how to reschedule or continue a case. The party should call the clerk’s office for information. They can also search the court’s website for their type of case in the county where the case will be heard.
Rescheduling Criminal Court Cases
The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees a defendant in a criminal case the right to a speedy trial. When the defendant continues a case or requests a later trial date, they waive the right to a speedy trial and cannot reassert this right at a later date.
In Brevard County, a party who wants a new court date may request a continuance from the clerk of court. This option is available to a defendant scheduled for a first appearance or arraignment on a misdemeanor or traffic charge who has not previously received a continuance. The party must contact the court clerk’s office in person, by phone or in writing to receive the continuance prior to the date and time of their scheduled court appearance.
The party must sign documentation reflecting the continuance and return it to the clerk’s office. The court will give the party the next available court date. The party must attend court on that date or the court will issue a bench warrant for their arrest.
Criminal Cases in Miami-Dade and Polk Counties
In Miami-Dade County, an individual who cannot attend a scheduled court hearing on a criminal traffic violation should contact the judge assigned to their case. The judge’s name is listed on their notice to appear. If the person failed to attend their hearing, they should contact the judge’s assistant (JA) to have the case set on the judge’s calendar.
In Polk County, a party who wants to continue a court proceeding must file a motion. The court will not continue a case without a judge’s approval unless a party is scheduled for arraignment. The court will continue arraignments only once without judge approval, and a continuance must be requested two days prior to the defendant’s court date.
Continuing a Civil Traffic Case
In Orange County, an individual who wants to reschedule a traffic ticket hearing date may do so only once. They should submit a written request to the clerk of the administrative court at least five calendar days before the date of the hearing. An individual who does not appear for a scheduled hearing waives the right to contest the traffic infraction. The court may order them to pay a civil penalty, plus administrative costs for their infraction.
In Duval County, an individual can set a date for a civil traffic infraction using the court’s online system. The citation must be less than 30 calendar days from the date it was issued. A party cannot use the online system to schedule a court date if the citation resulted in serious bodily injury or fatality; they must schedule the court date in person at the civil courthouse.
Rescheduling a Hearing for Multiple Cases
In Duval County, if the party is requesting court dates for multiple citations, the court cannot guarantee the same court date for all of the cases. Once a party has scheduled a court date, they cannot reschedule or void it using the online system; they must write a letter to the judge or hearing officer to request a new court date and forward that letter to the clerk of courts.
If it is necessary for the court to reschedule the party’s court date, and the party has not provided accurate contact information, the party’s failure to appear may result in the suspension of their driving privileges. In Polk County, a party can request a continuance only for a first-time arraignment date. They must make all other requests through the appropriate judge, which is the judge assigned to their case.
Consequences of Missed Court Dates
An individual who misses a court appearance for a criminal case risks having the judge order a bench warrant for their arrest. The judge who signs the bench warrant determines whether to set a bond amount or to require that the defendant be held in jail and not allowed bail.
If a defendant fails to appear in court, they should turn themselves in to the jail and post bond or contact their attorney or probation officer. When the person is taken into custody on a prior case, they may forfeit the bond they posted in that case. This means they will lose their money or collateral.
When a person has filed an injunction for protection against violence, or a restraining order, failure to attend a court hearing can cause their case to be dismissed. This means the injunction for protection against violence could expire, and the person would then have no legal injunction to protect them. The person accused of domestic violence could contact them without penalty.
Reasons to Miss a Scheduled Court Date
An individual may have a reason to miss court if they have an emergency, such as getting sick or being in a car accident. If a party misses court for such reasons, they should get documentation of the event to present to the court, like a note from a doctor or a police report from the accident. Minor inconveniences, such as a final exam, may be a sufficient reason to miss court. The party should talk to the court to determine the court’s reaction to rescheduling the court date.
Living outside the county in which the hearing or other court proceeding is taking place is not an excuse for missing a court date. An individual who wants to enter a not guilty plea for certain offenses, such as a traffic infraction ticket, and lives outside the county where they got the ticket, may have the option of completing an affidavit of defense. They should file this affidavit with the clerk’s office before the 30-day due date. Certain offenses, such as speed in excess of 30 mph over the posted speed limit may require a mandatory court appearance.
Electronic Court Reminders
Some counties allow a party to sign up to receive courtesy email or text reminders of criminal court events. This service is called e-Notify. It reminds the party of the event two weeks, seven days, and one day before the scheduled event. Any interested person can sign up, such as a witness, a family member or the defendant.
If the event is canceled or rescheduled, the user will get a reminder of the new date and time. It can take up to three business days for e-Notify to update information because there are statewide syncing limitations. A party can locate their case by searching for the Universal Case Number (UCN number) for the case.
e-Notify only returns cases that are open, so it may take up to three business days for the system to capture a new or newly reopened case. If a case cannot be located and is not new, the party should search the online court records site by the defendant’s name to verify the case number. If the party is still unable to find the case, or a case is listed as closed or disposed and an event remains scheduled, the party should email firstname.lastname@example.org with the UCN case number and full information for the defendant. An e-Notify staff person will respond to the inquiry within 72 hours.
Remote Court Hearings by Zoom
During the COVID-19 pandemic, some Florida courts are holding hearings online by Zoom. A party should review the rules for virtual court hearings via Zoom before the proceeding occurs. A party can reschedule a court hearing held by Zoom just as they would an in-person hearing.
- Miami-Dade County Clerk of the Courts: Criminal Traffic Violations
- County of Orange, Florida: Request to Reschedule Hearing
- Duval County Clerk of Court: Set Court Date for Civil Traffic Citation
- Clerk of the Court, Brevard County, Florida: County Criminal and Felony FAQs
- Hillsborough County Clerk of Court: Domestic Violence/Injunctions for Protection
- Broward Clerk of Courts: Remote Hearings by Zoom
- Alachua County: E-Notify
- Polk County, Clerk of Court: FAQs
- Court dates regarding criminal charges are not likely to be moved without the help of an attorney.
- Some counties, such as Hillsborough County, Florida, do not allow court dates to be moved once they have been scheduled.
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.