How do I handle a Failure to Appear in Court in Massachusetts?

02/20/2009 - Civil Actions - State: MA #15308

Full Question:

I am a small business owner and had an issue with one of my vendors. To make a long story short, I did not pay him because I felt there was no reason for a service not completed properly. I missed the court date and I had a voice mail from him stating he had issued a capias for my arrest? Is this something I can call the court about? And what does this mean-they will actually come to my home and arrest me? I am confused.


A capias is a warrant or order for arrest of a person, typically issued by the judge or magistrate in a case. A capias may be issued in different forms. A capias is commonly issued for a failure to appear in court. A capias may be based upon an affidavit alleging personal knowledge of the offense. It must state the name of the accused, if known, and if not known, must give some reasonably definite description of him. It must show that the accused has committed some offense against the laws of the state, either directly or that the affiant has good reason to believe, and does believe, that the accused has committed such offense. It must state the time and place of the commission of the offense, as definitely as can be done by the affiant. Finally, it must be signed by the affiant by writing his name or affixing his mark.

The following is a Massachusetts statute:

G.L.c. 224, § 18. Contempt; procedure; effect; appeal.

Section 18. The court may issue warrants for arrest and other processes to secure the attendance of debtors or creditors to answer for any contempt under this chapter. The term debtor, as used in this section shall mean, if the debtor is a corporation or a trust with transferable shares, the contemnor as defined in section fourteen or section sixteen. An arrest shall not be made after sunset unless specially authorized in the warrant for cause. Contempt of court under this chapter shall be punished by a fine of not more than twenty dollars or by imprisonment in the common jail for not more than thirty days. A debtor or creditor in custody, charged with contempt, shall be entitled to a speedy hearing therefor, and the officer having him in custody shall remain in attendance until excused by the court. A debtor or creditor in custody, charged with contempt, may be released by the court and the hearing on the alleged contempt may be continued.
A debtor arrested on a capias after court has adjourned may be lodged with the keeper of the lock-up in the city or town in which he is arrested, or lodged with the keeper of the common jail. Said keeper shall receive the debtor from the arresting officer and hold the debtor until the next sitting of the court issuing the capias, at which time the officer shall call for the debtor and take him before the court. The debtor shall be allowed a reasonable time to procure sureties for his recognizance to appear before the court issuing the capias at the next sitting of court. A master in chancery may accept his recognizance to the creditor with surety or sureties in a sum not less than the judgment, conditioned that he will appear before the court at its next sitting and from time to time until the proceedings are concluded. The provision for the arrest of a debtor after court has adjourned shall not apply to female debtors.
A sentence for contempt shall not end the proceedings, nor any order made therein, and future violations of the order upon which the sentence was founded, or any other order, may likewise be dealt with as for contempt. The court shall retain jurisdiction of supplementary proceedings until an order shall be made expressly dismissing them. If the proceedings are dismissed, the creditor shall not, within one year after the date of such dismissal, file a new application against the same debtor upon the same judgment or a judgment including the same cause of action, unless the court otherwise orders. There shall be no appeal from any judgment, order or sentence under the provisions of this chapter, except as provided in section nineteen.

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02/20/2009 - Category: Civil Actions - State: MA #15308

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