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Failure to Appear in California

by Lindsay Chambers

If you get charged with a crime, California law requires you to appear in court after your release from custody. What happens if you miss your court date? You can get penalized for failure to appear (CA Penal Code 1320 & 1320.5). Depending on the original reason you were supposed to appear in court, the judge will issue either a criminal warrant or a bench warrant for your arrest. 

A criminal warrant for failure to appear in California means the police will track you down and arrest you. In contrast, a bench warrant for failure to appear results in the police department entering your name into a database. If you encounter the police for whatever reason – even years later – they can find you in the database and arrest you on the bench warrant.

What Happens If You Miss Your Court Date?

In California, failure to appear in court can have severe consequences. Depending on your original charge, it can be a misdemeanor or a felony. How long is a sentence for failure to appear? As a misdemeanor, a failure to appear charge can add six months in jail and $1,000 in fines on top of your existing penalties. As a felony, you face up to three additional years in prison and fines as high as $10,000.

If you are already on probation, failure to appear would immediately violate your probation terms, and you could end up having your probation agreement revoked and go to jail. 

If you choose to ignore your ticket for traffic violations such as speeding or reckless driving, you risk the additional punishment of having your driver’s license suspended. A driver’s license suspension is more than merely inconvenient if you must drive to and from work or if your livelihood revolves around having a valid driver’s license. 

How Do I Clear a Failure to Appear in California?

If you face a bench warrant for failure to appear in Orange County, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you avoid any fines or jail time. Sometimes, presenting the court with written documentation is sufficient to clear your record of the charge if you have a valid reason for failure to appear in California, such as being severely ill or missing your flight. If your failure to appear was due to an avoidable circumstance, like you forgot or chose not to show up on your assigned date, write a letter apologizing to the court and bring it with you when you appear before a judge.

If you are facing failure to appear charges, hiring a lawyer who is familiar with all the intricacies of California laws can make a difference. The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower will use our experience to help you navigate the legal process and treat you with the respect you deserve. Ronald G. Brower has been a leading attorney in Southern California for 45 years, building his reputation by taking on some of the highest-profile cases. Contact us today for help clearing a failure to appear charge. 

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