A failure to appear (FTA) violation in California can be a very significant offense. The principal question that should be on your mind is, “Can an FTA land me in jail?” Unfortunately, the answer to that question is an emphatic yes. The judge will consider the seriousness of the original violation, whether an infraction or a misdemeanor crime. In the case of an FTA to resolve a misdemeanor, the judge will most often issue a bench warrant for your arrest. An offense such as reckless driving combined with an FTA might not seem that serious to you, but it will more than irritate a judge. Many judges take an FTA as an affront to their authority. That is why it is called a bench warrant; it is issued from the bench by a sitting judge.
Considerations of an FTA
In recent years, CA has taken the position of not arresting or suspending the license of drivers who fail to pay to resolve a traffic infraction. However, there is a significant difference legally between an infraction and a misdemeanor violation of traffic law. And, an FTA is a misdemeanor offense.
Infractions are usually a minor traffic incident that can get resolved without going to court, by pleading guilty (that’s what you do when you pay the fine) and accepting traffic school or by pleading not guilty and letting a traffic ticket attorney represent you in court. A misdemeanor traffic violation includes reckless driving, hit and run, an exhibition of speed or street racing, DUI, or another dangerous driving behavior that threatens public safety. A conviction on an infraction will result in increased expenses, but a misdemeanor conviction, including an FTA, could lead to jail time.
Mojave, CA, Reckless Driving
Since a reckless driving charge is one of the most frequently dodged traffic violations that lead to an FTA, you probably wonder what the state legislature considers “reckless driving.” Those convicted of reckless driving in CA are individuals who drove a vehicle on a public roadway or in a parking garage with the “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.”
“Willful” means the conduct was deliberately committed, and “wanton” means the person realized the driving behavior they conducted was reckless, but they went ahead and did it anyway. There are many consequences to a reckless driving conviction in CA, and therefore, why there are so many failures to appear after a reckless driving violation.
A reckless driving violation is a misdemeanor crime and if convicted can result in jail time or probation, a substantial fine, a suspended license, and double or tripled auto insurance premiums. However, many alleged offenders can avoid jail time and considerable expenses by using a traffic law professional to resolve their original ticket and the FTA.
Resolving an FTA in Mojave, CA
If you have received an FTA because of a reckless driving charge, the best thing you can do is to resolve the FTA through a knowledgeable traffic ticket attorney familiar with criminal defense. That’s correct, both reckless driving and an FTA are criminal offenses which could land you in jail without the assistance of a skilled attorney.
The judge will ask you or your attorney why you did not appear for court initially, and there are only a few valid defenses/reasons for your non-appearance in this case. These would include such things as deportation, incarceration, military service conducted outside the area, or hospitalization. Duty at Edwards AB, FT Irwin, or another in-state area might not be sufficient enough, but you should leave that to an attorney to present your case to the judge.
Even when you do not have a valid excuse for an FTA, an experienced attorney can present your case without your attendance. This will save you two or three “sick days” or your salary and the inconvenience of sitting in court for those days. Representing yourself is never a good idea, but that is especially true in a criminal trial.
Remember also that a conviction of reckless driving or any misdemeanor will remain on your driving record for ten years, and it could stay on your criminal record for life. Another consideration is even if you successfully defend yourself on the charge of reckless driving, you will still face the FTA charge.
According to CA Vehicle Code (CVC) 40508, Release Upon Promise to Appear, any person who willfully violates their promise to appear (that’s what you did when you signed your ticket) for court or pay a deposit of bail “is guilty of a misdemeanor regardless of the disposition of the charge upon which he or she was originally arrested.”
Considering all the time and inconvenience you will suffer to resolve both the reckless driving (or another charge) and the FTA, a skilled and knowledgeable attorney is necessary to assist you in clearing up these misdemeanor crimes so that you can avoid jail time and get on with your life with a clean driver’s license.
Skilled Criminal Defense Attorneys Who Practice in Mojave, CA
If you have been charged with an FTA, even from years past, call Bigger & Harman, (661) 349-9300. Se habla Español 661.349.9755. Not only can they resolve your FTA without your presence, but they can handle your original traffic ticket as well. Remember that an FTA is a criminal offense and paying a collection agency without consulting an attorney could be judged an admission of guilt. Additionally, you are guaranteed the same Constitutional safeguards as any defendant charged with a criminal offense, such as “the right to remain silent” and “to have an attorney present during questioning.” Therefore, you should take advantage of those rights, and call Bigger & Harman before making any statement to law enforcement of court officials.
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CVC 40508, Release Upon Promise to Appear
The 2018 CA Driver Handbook .pdf
The 2018 California Superior Court Bail Schedule for Infractions and Misdemeanors.pdf