Penalties for Failure to Appear in Court for a Traffic Citation 

Having to appear in court for a traffic ticket may seem like a hassle. However, if you ignore your ticket, your situation will only get worse. In addition to increased fines, the court may subject you to additional penalties. When a law enforcement officer believes that you broke the law, they may issue you a traffic ticket with information about the fine you must pay, as well as a court date to resolve the ticket if you do not plead guilty and pay the fine. If you do not go to court after signing a written promise to appear, this is called a “failure to appear” and carries additional penalties. 

For one, if you do not appear or if you do not pay your fine on time, the court may add an additional civil assessment of up to $300 to your fine amount, and your case may be referred for collection. In the worst case scenario, the court may even issue a bench warrant for your arrest. A bench warrant allows law enforcement officers to arrest you and bring you before a judge. Generally, those who are brought in on a warrant are treated more severely by the court. It is also important to note that bench warrants do not expire and will remain on your record until you get it cleared, either by appearing before a judge to resolve your case or through your attorney. 

You may be facing criminal charges if you fail to appear in court. This criminal charge will need to be resolved separately from your bench warrant. Under California Vehicle Code Section 40508a, a misdemeanor conviction of failure to appear is punishable by: 

  • Up to $1,000 in fines 
  • Up to 6 months in jail
  • Probation 

If you do not pay your fine within the time the court sets, your driver’s license may be suspended, and you may be unable to renew your car’s registration. However, if you can show the court that paying the ticket will cause you significant financial hardship, the court may take your ability to pay into consideration. After evaluating your situation, the court may opt to reduce the fine amount, set a payment plan, or order community service as an alternative. Furthermore, if you get a civil assessment for failure to appear, you may be able to ask the court to cancel it if you had good cause. 

Defenses to Failure to Appear Charges 

The best way to avoid these charges and their penalties is to show up to court when required. In addition, if you contacted the court prior to your “Notice to Appear” date and took action on your ticket such as pleading guilty and paying the fine, then you may not need to actually appear. Speak to the court to confirm whether your appearance is mandatory. 

However, if you have already missed your court appointment, there are a few defenses that may help you avoid harsher consequences. In some cases, you may have missed your court date by accident, or you did not know that you had a court date. In these situations, your attorney may be able to prove that you did not willfully miss your court appointment and get your charges reduced. If you were prevented from appearing due to a medical emergency or car accident, your absence may also be excused. Speak with an experienced traffic defense attorney to figure out which defenses you may qualify for. 

Contact Wallin & Klarich Today 

If you failed to appear in court for a traffic citation, contact our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich to see how we can help you avoid additional penalties. With 40+ years of experience, Wallin & Klarich is your best choice amongst Southern California criminal defense firms. Our attorneys have helped thousands of clients in a wide range of traffic-related cases, and we have the skills and resources to secure the best outcome for you

With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, Torrance, West Covina, Los Angeles, and San Diego, you are sure to find an available and convenient attorney near you. 

Discover how our team can assist you. Contact us today, toll-free at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free consultation with a skilled defense attorney.