PC 1320 & 1320.5, VC 40508
Failure to Appear
What is a Failure to Appear?
A failure to appear occurs when you do not appear in court on the date specified on a piece of paper handed to you in the form of a ticket, when you were released from jail, or were given in the court. Generally, there is some form of record that you acknowledged the court date.
Although many times something is sent through the mail to remind you of the court date, it is actually not necessary. When you sign the paper or agree in court, you are making a contract with the State of California and on the bottom of the contract you have signed agreeing to appear in court on the date specified.
Failure to appear can be charged in the State of California if:
- You are charged with or convicted of a California crime,
- You are released from custody, and
- You WILLFULLY fail to appear in court when required, in order to EVADE court.
It does not matter if you are found innocent of the original charge or not, a failure to appear charge is an entirely separate charge.
Penalties for Failing to Appear
Penalties vary depending on the type of crime that you are charged with willfully evading:
- Original Charge was a Misdemeanor or Infraction: Up to six months in county jail, and/or a fine of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000).
- Original Charge was a Felony: Up to one year in county jail -or- sixteen months to three years in prison, and/or fine of up to five thousand dollars ($5,000) if you were released on your own recognizance, or ten thousand dollars ($10,000) if you were released on bail
Failing to appear for a traffic violation (VC 40508) is charged as a misdemeanor even though the original ticket is an infraction. Any time a failure to apppear is charged, the judge will almost certainly issue a no-bond warrant for your arrest.
Failing to appear after you have bonded or bailed out is known as “bail-jumping” and is covered in Penal Code section 1320.5. Penalties are increased dramatically, and you may lose your bail or bond. The judge will issue a no-bond warrant for your arrest. If you posted bond in your criminal case, the judge could increase your bond. In any case, the judge could require that you stay in jail until your case is completed.
I Missed My Court Date, Now What?
In most cases the judge has issued a no-bond “bench warrant” for your arrest the day you were supposed to be in court.
If a bench warrant has been issued in your name because of your failure to appear, it is generally only a matter of time before you are found by the police and placed under arrest and put in jail with no way to bail or bond out. You will be forced to go to court directly from the jail. This never looks good, and is a worst case-scenario.
Even if the police aren’t actively searching for you, any encounter with the police is likely to end in your arrest when they run your name and check for any warrants for your arrest. They can even scan your license plate and match it with your court arrest warrant.
You will eventually need to come to court. In any event, your best option if you missed a court date, is to hire a defense attorney. Representation always helps in this matter. Judges have heard nearly every excuse in the book, and anyone can make something up. Having someone by your side to defend you is your best option.
Was the failure to appear willful? In order to find that you have failed to appear, the court must determine that you had proper notice and willfully did not appear.
If circumstances beyond your control kept you from appearing in court such as serious illness, an accident, or a natural disaster, this may be a defense to a charge of failure to appear.
Can a Criminal Defense Lawyer Help Me?
Yes. Seppi Esfandi helps clients with bench warrants, arrest warrants, probation violations, bail jumping, failure to appear, failure to pay, and failure to comply with court orders.
Seppi provides clients with information and resources necessary to resolve their bench warrants once and for all. He understands that everyone makes mistakes, and he works tirelessly, helping clients determine the best strategies to resolve their cases.
Call Us for a FREE Case Review: 310-274-6529