A key concept in the American justice system is that we have no “debtor’s prison.” This means that a person cannot be incarcerated because he cannot afford financially to pay his debts. In our civil legal system, a person can be sued. But if he does not have the means to pay the debt, he can’t be locked up as a result.
However, a person can be locked up when he doesn’t show up for court. That’s exactly what’s happened to sports agent Leigh Steinberg. Steinberg was facing a civil law suit stemming from missed payments on a judgment from 2009. He failed to pay a debt for rented office space. He had a court date scheduled for December 15th. Steinberg claims he asked his lawyer to reschedule it and the lawyer told him it was no problem. Steinberg did not show up in court and as a result, the judge issued a warrant for his arrest.
Steinberg is famous for being the sports agent that Jerry McGuire was based upon. Known as possibly the first “super-star agent,” Steinberg previously represented Troy Aikman, Warren Moon, Ben Boethlisberger, Steve Young, and Oscar De La Hoya. According to the most recent reports, Steinberg still has a warrant out for his arrest. The case is set to go back to court on February 6th for another hearing.
In Florida, failing to appear in court can result in a warrant for a person’s arrest because it is considered contempt of court. In addition, if the person fails to appear in court on a criminal charge, it could also be a new criminal charge for failing to show up for court. Florida Statute 843.15(1) states that where a person willfully fails to appear before a court or judicial officer after being released on bail or while awaiting sentence or pending appeal, it is a crime. If the pending charge is a felony, failing to appear is a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. If the pending charge is a misdemeanor charge, then failing to appear is a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail.