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California Bench Warrant – Penal Code 166 and 978.5

A bench warrant, also known as a “body attachment” is the most common arrest warrant issued in the state of California. A bench warrant is issued from the judge and is an order to immediately arrest a person. Bench warrants are issued pursuant to California Penal Code sections 166 and 978.5.  A bench warrant is not issued on the suspicion of criminal activity; it arises from a failure to follow the terms of a pre-existing offense.

Can a Bench Warrant Be Issued for Failing to Appear in Court in California?

California judges can issue a bench warrant for failure to appear in court.

If a person fails to appear for any scheduled court date, the judge can issue a California bench warrant. Failure to appear warrants are the most commonly issued bench warrants. Some examples include but are not limited to:

  • Failure to appear in court after the date and place was fixed for the person to appear after criminal charges or an accusation against him;
  • Failure to appear in court after a judge has personally ordered the person to appear
  • Failure to appear in court for show completion of community service, proof of enrollment, or another alternative sentencing;
  • Failure to appear in court after a police officer has issued a citation.

Additionally, the judge may issue a bench warrant if a person was indicted by California grand jury and was not present at the indicated time.

Penalties for Failure to Appear in Court in California

  • California Penal Code Section 853.7: Failure to Appear-Written Promise

In case a person willfully fails to appear in court after having been given a written promise to appear the prosecution will charge a “failure to appear” as a misdemeanor. This is punishable by up to one year in county jail and/or a maximum fine of up to $1,000.

  • California Penal Code Section 1320(a): Failure to Appear in Misdemeanor Case

If a person released on his own recognizance for a misdemeanor case willfully fails to appear in a court within 14 days of a scheduled date, he will be additional charged with misdemeanor “failure to appear” for evading the process of the court. In this case, a person may face a fine of up to $1,000 and a sentence of up to six-month in county jail.

  • California Penal Code Section 1320(b): Failure to Appear in Felony Case

If a person released on his own recognizance for a felony case willfully fails to appear in a court within 14 days of a scheduled date he will be additional charged with felony “failure to appear”.  A person may face a minimum fine of $5,000 and a sentence in a county jail or state prison. In case fail to appear in court involves a felony case where a person posted bail, the maximum fine increases from $5,000 to $10,000.

What are The Penalties for Failure to Pay a Fine or Restitution in California?

If a person willfully fails to pay court fines or ordered restitution the court may also issue a bench warrant.  According to California Penal Code section 1203.04 a willful failure to pay a fine or restitution if a person has financial ability to do so is a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to one year in county jail

California Bench Warrants for Disobeying a Court’s Order

The court can also issue a bench warrant if a person fails to obey its orders. If a person fails to complete a report for drug-testing, community service, or court-ordered classes he will be charged with a probation violation.

What is Civil Assessment Per California Penal Code section 1214.1?

According to California Penal Code section 1214.1 if the person doesn’t pay a fine on time, violates written promise to be present in court, doesn’t obey the court’s order, he may be charged with a “penalty assessment” up to $300.000, and his case may be referred for collection.

According to California Vehicle Code section 40508(d) if a person willfully fails to pay on time any fine or portion thereof due to a conviction for an infraction the court can also suspend his driver’s license for 30 days.

Criminal Defense Attorney

In case you have a bench warrant out for your arrest, it is important that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at KAASS LAW. Call (310) 943-1171 today for a free consultation. If you or a loved one has been issued a bench warrant, we invite you to contact our Glendale criminal defense attorney at KAASS LAW at (310) 943-1171 for a free consultation and case review. Our staff speaks Spanish, Armenian, Russian, and French.

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