As of 1 July 2017, the state of California no longer suspends an individual’s driver’s license (DL) for failure to pay (FTP) a traffic infraction. However, according to CA Vehicle Code (CVC) 40508, Release Upon Promise to Appear, failure to appear (FTA) without securing an extension from the court is a misdemeanor (criminal) offense, which could initiate a traffic ticket bench warrant. A “bench” warrant gets its name because only a sitting judge can issue one.
When you signed your traffic ticket, you entered into a legally binding contract with the state to resolve your ticket before your court date or appear in court on the date and time specified on your courtesy reminder. Non-receipt of a courtesy reminder does not relieve you of that responsibility. There are many methods to contact the court and find out when your court date is if you don’t receive a reminder. In Kern County, you can check the Superior Court Traffic or visit the court clerk at 3131 Arrow St., Bakersfield, CA between 8 am and 4 pm, Monday through Friday, except holidays.
Consequences of a Traffic Ticket Bench Warrant
Although CA no longer issues a traffic ticket bench warrant for an FTP, when you ignore your court date and FTA, you subject yourself to a criminal offense, which could lead to a bench warrant for your arrest. Also, either an FTP or an FTA could damage your credit rating if the DMV contacts a collection agency.
CVC 40508 authorizes a 30-day vehicle impoundment. When your car gets impounded by law enforcement, you are responsible for the towing fee, starting at $125.00 plus $7.00 per mile. This is the charge for a standard small car; it costs more (up to $543) for large vehicles such as SUVs. Storage costs start at $240 for a fraction of an hour, a daily rate of $39 for storage, and a $115 release fee, which goes in the State Treasury. Once again, the larger the vehicle, the more the storage fee. Therefore, the 30-day impound could easily cost close to $1500. Plus, if you do not gain release of your vehicle before a certain period, it could be sold at auction.
CVC 40508 also authorizes a 30-day suspension of driving privileges for FTA, which could get changed to a work-authorized restriction but requires clearing of the warrant.
A traffic ticket bench warrant will alert airport authorities and make it impossible for you to leave the country without clearing the warrant. This could be very embarrassing as TSA agents will likely notify law enforcement, who will arrest you.
The Good News
The good news is that a traffic ticket lawyer can usually clear a traffic ticket bench warrant within just a few days, get your DL restored, and your vehicle out of impound. Although there are very few acceptable reasons for an FTA, such as hospitalization, military duty, deportation, or incarceration, a skilled traffic ticket attorney can get you a new court date to clear your bench warrant. Every case is different, so you should contact a traffic ticket lawyer with the specifics of your bench warrant and the original traffic ticket.
Traffic Ticket Defenders For Bakersfield, CA
Call Bigger & Harman, (661) 349-9300, if you have an outstanding traffic ticket bench warrant. Bigger & Harman handle only traffic violations and practice traffic law across the Central California and some SoCal areas. They have defended hundreds of clients in Bakersfield Traffic Court, and secured dismissals and reduced charges for thousands of Californians in Central California courtrooms. If you know you have a bench warrant, don’t wait for an inconvenient and embarrassing arrest, call Bigger & Harman today.
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The 2018 CA Driver Handbook .pdf
CVC 40508, Release Upon Promise to Appear
CVC 14602.6, Violation of License Provisions, which describes the towing authorities responsibilities, and the Official Police Garage website.
The 2018 California Superior Court Bail Schedule for Infractions and Misdemeanors.pdf