Failure to Appear (FTA) is when you have a court date set and, for whatever reason, you don’t show up. Failing to appear can result in the judge issuing a bench warrant, or a criminal arrest warrant, depending on what you were supposed to appear in court for in the first place. Penalties for failure to appear in California depend on if the original charge was a misdemeanor or a felony, and whether the charge involved a traffic citation.
A criminal warrant for failure to appear means the police will be actively looking for you to take you into custody. They can arrest you night or day, even coming to your home in the middle of the night. A bench warrant for failure to appear generally results in your name being put into a database, and if you have contact with the police for any reason, they can run your name against the database and arrest you on the bench warrant.
In either case, hiring a good Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer is in your best interests.
Being Released on Your Own Recognizance
If you are charged with a California misdemeanor, and released on your own recognizance, (O.R.) then failure to appear on that charge is a misdemeanor. Being released O.R. is generally reserved for first time offenders who are not a flight risk or a danger to the community. Being released on your own recognizance means you promise the court to show up when you are supposed to. It helps you avoid paying thousands of dollars in bail.
But the court takes your promise to appear in court seriously. California law requires that when you are released on your own recognizance, you sign an O.R. release agreement. This agreement is legally binding and states that you:
- Promise to appear in court for all scheduled court dates
- Promise to abide by and comply with all court-ordered conditions of release (such as house arrest, drug treatment, restraining order, etc.)
- Promise that you will not leave the state of California without first getting the court’s permission
- Agree to waive extradition proceedings in the event that you fail to appear and are arrested outside of the state of California
- Have been informed of the penalties and consequences of failure to appear in court
If you willfully fail to appear – and the assumption is you willfully tried to evade the court process if you don’t appear in court or at least contact the court within 14 days of your court date – your potential penalties vary based on the original charge.
Saying you did not willfully fail to appear is one of your best defenses against an FTA charge, and your lawyer can help you mount that defense.
Misdemeanor Charge Penalties
If you were originally charged with a misdemeanor, failure to appear is also a misdemeanor. Penalties include:
- Up to 6 months in county jail
- Fine of up to $1000
- Or both a fine and jail time
Felony Charge Penalties
If the original charge against you was a felony charge, failure to appear is also a felony. Penalties include:
- Up to 3 years in a California state prison
- A maximum $5000 fine if you were released on your own recognizance, and $10,000 if you were released on bail
- Or both a fine and prison time
Failure to Appear for a Traffic Violation in California
If you fail to appear for a scheduled court date for traffic violations, such as speeding tickets, driving without insurance, DUI, reckless driving, etc., you face the additional penalty of having your driver’s license suspended. That can be a real hardship if you have a long commute for work, or drive for a living, such as a truck driver.
Failure to Appear When You are Already on Probation
Failure to appear would immediately be a probation violation and could result in your probation being revoked and you landing in jail. If you failed to appear and you’re on probation, you need an experienced probation violation lawyer on your side.
If you face a bench warrant for failure to appear, hiring a good criminal defense attorney can help you avoid any fines or jail time. If you have a good reason for failing to appear, such as a missed flight or severe illness, sometimes getting written documentation to present to the court is all it takes to clear up the FTA charge. But having a lawyer by your side who is experienced in court proceedings can make all the difference.
If you need a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles, call the Simmrin Law Group at 310-997-4688 for a free consultation. We’re available to take your call 24/7. Don’t talk to the police until you talk to us.