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Law Office of Paul Tyler
Criminal Defense

Handling cases in Ventura County, and portions of Santa Barbara and Los Angeles Counties

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What Happens if I Miss My Court Date?

Court Case Day Jury Duty Calendar Date 3d Illustration

As a general rule of thumb, you should follow the orders of a court. This is doubly true in a criminal case, where disobeying a court order can mean violating bail or parole conditions, cause you to forfeit certain defenses, affect your sentencing, and land you in jail unnecessarily. Court dates are court orders and are not to be taken lightly. Read on for a discussion of what happens when you miss a criminal court date, and contact a seasoned Oxnard criminal defense attorney if you need representation or have any questions regarding a California criminal matter in Los Angeles or Ventura County.

Failure to appear for a traffic ticket

When you get a speeding ticket, you are technically issued a court date. By signing the ticket you are promising to appear. Most people just pay the fine to avoid the need for appearing in court. But, if you fail to pay the ticket, then you may be required to appear in court. If you do not go to court, the judge may choose to punish you in a variety of ways, including: issue a Failure to Appear (FTA); suspend your driver’s license; impose an additional civil fine of up to $300; refer your case for collection; or issue a bench warrant. A court may even charge you with a misdemeanor or infraction for failure to appear. Courts are less likely to charge you with a misdemeanor or issue bench warrants for infractions like traffic violations, but facing an additional fine and license suspension can be a serious burden for many people. The consequences may be even more severe in a criminal case.

Failure to appear for a criminal matter

If you are facing criminal prosecution and you fail to show up to court, the judge will likely issue a warrant for your arrest. This is called a “bench warrant.” The warrant gives police the authority to arrest you on sight. While the police might not be actively searching or kicking down doors if the alleged crime was a misdemeanor or other minor offense, they will arrest you if they ever have reason to encounter you. For example, being pulled over for speeding could now land you in jail. If you were being prosecuted for a felony, the police may go looking for you.

If you were out on bail (in California, you are released on your own recognizance), missing a court date constitutes a violation of your release conditions, which can land you in jail pending trial. Missing a criminal court date while released from custody constitutes its own separate crime under California Penal Code 1320. The crime is punishable as a misdemeanor or as a felony depending on the severity of the underlying charges.

How can I fix my missed court date?

If you have a missed court date but have yet to be arrested with a failure to appear, then it is not too late to fix the problem. A criminal defense attorney can help make your case to the judge. Your attorney may be able to convince the judge to drop the bench warrant and/or additional charges, with no further penalties. If the matter is a felony, you will have to appear personally in court; your attorney cannot appear for you. In a misdemeanor case, your attorney may be able to appear on your behalf and get the warrant quashed.

Defend Against Criminal Charges in Oxnard and Ventura County

If you are facing criminal charges in southern California, get seasoned, effective and dedicated legal help by contacting the Ventura offices of Paul Tyler for a free consultation at 805-889-9000.

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