The legal necessity to appear can arise when the person:
- Makes a signatory promise, such as on a traffic ticket.
- Received a legal subpoena.
- In court, the judge orders their return verbally and sets a court date.
Typically, a person issued a citation for an infraction will be released on their own recognizance, without posting bail. A more serious misdemeanor or felony will sometimes require a person to pay bail. However, some CA counties require you to pay the amount of the fine as bail even for a traffic infraction in some situations.
When a law enforcement officer (LEO) issues you a traffic ticket, the purpose for your signature is not to admit guilt but a promise by you to either resolve the ticket or appear in court on the date required on your court reminder. If you do not receive a court reminder, that does not excuse you from appearing on the date on the notice.
A “failure to appear” (FTA) occurs when you do not resolve your ticket before your court date or show up in court. CA Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 40508, Release Upon Promise to Appear paragraph (a) states, “A person willfully violating his or her written promise to appear… in court or before a person authorized to receive a deposit of bail is guilty of a misdemeanor…”
When you realize that you missed your court date, you should call an attorney right away. If the judge orders a bench warrant, you could be detained if you get stopped for any reason until you provide bail.
Also, the judge could suspend your driver’s license, add an administrative fee of up to $300, or find you guilty in absentia. A traffic attorney can resolve your FTA, get the warrant squashed, and then work to resolve your original ticket.
You might think that because you only had a speeding ticket or illegal U-turn, the penalty for an FTA is not that severe. However, even an FTA for an infraction can be charged as a misdemeanor.
What Are Some of the Reasons a Judge Will Accept for an FTA?
There are four valid excuses for an FTA:
- Deportation or you were out of the country
- Military duty, even if your duty was in CA, you might not have been able to leave.
However, an experienced traffic attorney can show other reasons for an FTA. The state must show that you “willfully” did not appear to prove you were guilty of a crime. Telling the judge, “I was not guilty of speeding; so therefore, I chose not to go to court,” will show the judge you willfully failed to appear.
Your best option is to hire a skilled and experienced traffic attorney who regularly appears in Kern County Traffic Courts to resolve traffic issues.
If You Have an FTA, Even from Years Ago, Call the Office of Bigger & Harman, APC
Bigger & Harman, (661) 349-9300. Se habla Español (661) 349-9755.
We are Bakersfield traffic attorneys. We can help you resolve your traffic tickets like red-light or stop signs, wrong-way on a one-way street, illegal U-turn, speeding, and many others. Plus, we can help you with a DMV NOTS Hearing.
The 2020 CA Driver Handbook.pdf
CVC Section 40508, Release Upon Promise to Appear