Although some judges may be more lenient about issuing a bench warrant for an FTA, most courts handle a failure to appear (FTA) or failure to pay (FTP) for a traffic ticket the same way.
Many drivers do not realize that when they sign their traffic ticket, they are making a written contract with the people of California to appear in court on the date on the ticket or on the court reminder mailed later or otherwise resolve your traffic ticket before the court date.
CA Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 40508 (a), Release Upon Promise to Appear prescribes that “A person willfully violating his or her written promise to appear or a lawfully granted continuance of his or her promise to appear in court or before a person authorized to receive a deposit of bail is guilty of a misdemeanor regardless of the disposition of the charge upon which he or she was originally arrested.”
In this case, the bail deposit is what most think of as the fine they pay rather than going to court to dispute the charge against them for a traffic violation. Although, by law, the courts must issue a “court reminder,” which gives the ticket recipient the date and time of the court and other valuable information, it does not relieve the individual’s responsibility of resolving the ticket or appearing in court.
As stated in the traffic code, if you FTA, you are “guilty of a misdemeanor” even though most traffic offenses are infractions (although there are misdemeanors and felonies).
According to the Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute (LII), an “Infraction has multiple legal meanings. Generally, it refers to violations or infringements, or breach of statutes, contracts, or obligations. However, the act itself is very minor and hence the resulting penalty is also very minor. Examples of infractions include parking overtime, speeding, and tailgating. Incarceration is not an option for an infraction.”
The same authority states, “A misdemeanor is a crime punishable by less than 12 months in jail.”
Therefore, what could have been a fine as little as $238, if willfully ignored, could get you 12 months in the county jail. Although, it is typically only six months or less, and for first offenders, probation.
The more likely scenario is that the judge will find you guilty in absentia, order you to pay a fine, add a “civil assessment” of as much as $300, and send it to a collection agency.
If you do not pay the collection agency, a traffic attorney can usually get the FTA resolved, and the civil assessment dropped if there was a valid reason for your missing court, such as military service, hospitalization, deportation, and a few others.
It is essential that you consult an attorney before paying the collection agency because the traffic attorney cannot get you that money back. The payment might be looked at as an admission of guilt. Also, the attorney can petition the court to drop the civil assessment. Contact a traffic attorney immediately.
Contact Bigger & Harman to Resolve an FTA in Kern County
Bigger & Harman are Bakersfield Traffic Attorneys who can help you clear an FTA and resolve your traffic ticket, call today, (661) 349-9300. Se habla Español (661) 349-9755.
We only practice traffic law because we believe we can give our clients more specialized attention. Give us a call or send us an email with your specific information, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
The 2020 CA Driver Handbook.pdf
The California Courts webpage, If You Ignore Your Ticket40508 (a), Release Upon Promise to Appear