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“Failure to Appear” – CA Penal Code

Empty courtroomAfter criminal charges, people who are afraid to go to face fines, jail, or prison may be tempted to skip court altogether to avoid the consequences of these charges. However, this can make things much worse, because it can result in a new charge called failure to appear. Willful failure to appear is a crime which can be punished by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine when the underlying charge is a misdemeanor and for felony charges up to $5,000 if you were released on your own recognizance and up to $10,000 if you were released on bail and up to a year in the county jail or a prison sentence of 16 months or 2 or 3 years. Failure to appear on a misdemeanor charge is a misdemeanor, and failure to appear on a felony charge is a felony.

If you fail to appear in court, a judge will issue a bench warrant for your arrest. When you are first arrested, a judge will decide whether you can be released on your own recognizance or whether a bail bond must be posted for your pretrial release. On your own recognizance means that you are free to go without posting bond but are required to show up for all court dates. The default for a misdemeanor charge is to be released on your own recognizance, without bail.

For felony charges, judges usually consider a person’s past history with the courts as well as the person’s ties to the community when deciding to release someone on their own recognizance. If the judge decides to set a bond, then you must have a third party post part of the bond with a bail bondsman who will agree to ensure your appearance in court. If you fail to appear in court after you have posted bond, the bondsman will come looking for you, and the bond that your friend or relative posted for you may be forfeited, causing that person to owe that money to the court.

The California Penal Code states that you may be charged with Failure to Appear if you fair to appear “willfully” and “as required” by the court. To fail to appear willfully, a person must have the state of mind or intention to do so. For example, if a person is unable to move in a hospital, he or she would not be charged with failure to appear because missing the court date would not have been willful. However, some judges will not consider some excuses, such as if a person had car trouble on the day of court, because that person could have found an alternate means of transportation. As required means that you attend any appearance ordered by the court, whether you are given a written notice to do so at the time you are released. If you have been charged with failure to appear, it is best that you contact your bondsman and the court right away.

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