When you fail to pay a ticket or appear in court on or before the date on the court reminder, you could be guilty of a failure to appear (FTA). Whether you will have to appear in court to resolve the FTA will depend on your attorney.
CA Vehicle Code (CVC) 40508, Release Upon Promise to Appear makes an FTA a misdemeanor or criminal offense, regardless of the original ticket or its outcome. When you signed the traffic ticket given to you by the law enforcement officer (LEO), you made a written promise to the people of the State of California to resolve the ticket or appear in court and plead to the charges brought by the citation.
Several things can happen as a result of an FTA. The court could try you in absentia, find you guilty, and levy penalties. If the fine is not paid, a civil penalty of $300 can get assessed, late fees added, the account turned over to a collection agency for enforcement, the judge can order a bench warrant, your license could get suspended, and you could have difficulty renewing your registration.
No New Suspensions for Unpaid Fines
In July of 2017 the state legislature did away with the ability of the courts and the DMV to suspend your license due to nonpayment of fines. Governor Brown stated, "Often, the primary consequence of a driver's license suspension is the inability to legally drive to work or take one's children to school." However, that law is not retroactive, nor does it prevent suspension for an FTA.
Therefore, it is wiser to go to court, challenge the ticket, and if found guilty, ask the judge to consider your income and a payment plan. When paying the full amount of the fine will cause financial hardship to you and your family, you can ask the court to consider your income. You can also ask the court to remove the $300 civil penalty and late fees, but don’t wait too long.
Ask a Traffic Ticket Attorney for Assistance
Many people believe it is a waste of money to hire a lawyer to fight a ticket, and especially to ask for a reduced fine. Their logic makes sense on the surface, if you need the court to consider your income, how then can you afford an attorney? The right to an attorney, although not guaranteed for infractions, is a basic right of all people.
Plus, statistics show those who hire an attorney receive a reduced charge or outright dismissal of the charges. In fact, that figure is 95% of ticket recipients who hire representation to challenge a traffic ticket get a dismissal. Therefore, there is no need to broach the subject of income.
When you need assistance to clear an FTA in Los Angeles County, call Bigger & Harman, (661) 349-9300. Se habla Español (661) 349-9755.
We have had tremendous success in LA County courts like Santa Clarita, Glendale, Burbank, Long Beach, Inglewood and more. We could save you hundreds, perhaps even thousands of dollars in fines, late fees, and civil penalties.
The 2018CA Drivers Handbook .pdf
CVC 40508, Release Upon Promise to Appear