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Failure to Appear in Court for a Traffic Violation

Is Failing to Appear in court for a Traffic Violation Illegal?

Yes. California Vehicle Code 40508a makes it a crime for a person to fail to appear in court for a traffic citation. 

Vehicle Code 40508a states 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.

Can Failing to Appear to Court be Excused?

Excusing a failure to appear charge is up to the judge’s discretion. One excuse would be proving to a judge that you did not willfully fail to appear to court. A Judge could also excuse an absence if there was never an agreement signed to appear in court or if there was an emergency. 

  1. Non willfully failing to appear, can be a rage of excuses like forgetting the day of court and missing it on accident. 
  2. No signed agreement could mean that you didn’t sign your citation upon receiving it. 
  3. An emergency excuse would be events like a car accident, serious health problem, or a death in the family.

What are the penalties for Failing to Appear in Court for a Traffic Violation?

Violation of Vehicle Code 40508a will result in a misdemeanor regardless of the extent of the traffic infraction. 

Punishable by:

  • A maximum of 6 months in county jail,
  • A maximum fine of $1000.
  • Misdemeanor Probation, rather than jail time. 

What is considered “Failing to Appear?”

Failing to appear is when a defendant who received a traffic citation, and when receiving that citation he/she signed an agreement to appear in court, and the defendant willfully failed to appear in court for the citation. 

A “willful” act does not require that the defendant had the intention to break the law, hurt someone else, or gain any advantage. It only requires that the act was done wilfully. 

It does not matter whether or not the accused is guilty of the ticket. You can still be guilty of failing to appear if you break your promise to:

  • Appear in court
  • Pay bail
  • Pay a fine within the given time period, or
  • Comply with the orders of the court.

Can a charge for Failure to Appear be expunged?

Yes. A person can be granted expungement given that he/she has completed the jail time/probation period for the charge. 

Penal Code 1320-1320.5 

PC 1320

This California statute makes it a crime for a person to fail to appear in court if they have been released from custody on their own recognizance and have been ordered by the court to reappear.

PC 1320.5 

This California Statute makes it a crime for someone to fail to appear in court if they have been released from custody on pain, and are ordered to appear by the court.

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