Failure to Appear in California & Its Consequences

An image of the California state flag with a pair of handcuffs on top

Are you wondering what happens if you miss a court date? The courts call that “failure to appear” or FTA. Missing a court date often results in penalties, which can lead to long-term consequences.

Every state has stiff penalties for failure to appear when the court has required you to do so. The logic behind this is obvious. Without stiff penalties, many people would interfere with their cases going forward by failing to appear. This is especially true for persons who are facing severe penalties and who are on trial for significant crimes.

What does FTA mean in courts in California? Here’s a brief overview of failure to appear California laws as they apply today.

Failure to Appear Laws in California  

California Penal Codes 853.7 and 853.8 both cover the failure to appear by setting the minimum charges. If you fail to appear for a registered court date, you are guilty of a misdemeanor.

Your court is already in session, and your guilt or innocence is physically apparent to the presiding judge. Thus, you will not have a trial to determine your guilt.

Instead, the judge simply declares you guilty of this crime. They can do so by virtue of the fact that he does not see you at the scheduled hearing.

The judge will now issue a bench warrant (so-called because it is issued from the bench) for your arrest. This gives the police the right to arrest you if they can find you. They can detain you until your next hearing – even if that hearing is weeks or months away.

How Long Do You Stay in Jail For a Warrant For Missing Court in California?

If the judge chooses to detain you for FTA in California, you can legally stay in jail for up to six months. The actual length of time is based on the date of your next hearing. The courts cannot keep you in jail beyond that date.

What Is the Penalty For Failure to Appear in California?

In addition to jail time, the judge may issue a fine. California law 853.7 PC enables the court to assess a penalty of no less than $15. This fine can be as high as $1000. They use this to cover any expenses and inconvenience you have caused by creating this delay.

Other Legal Ramifications of Failure to Appear

If you receive a failure to appear without just cause (which was a condition of your bail), the court may revoke your bail. This means that the court may opt to keep any money you have posted for bail.

If you have used a bail agency, then they may hire a bounty hunter. This individual will bring you in to protect their surety bond. If you are allowed back out on bail, the face amount may be increased to encourage your appearance in the future.

Failure to appear is a serious crime in the eyes of the courts, and so it generally has severe effects in the future. It is a mark on your criminal record. While it is only a misdemeanor, it usually guarantees a brief jail sentence in the local house of corrections.

Going forward, you will have more difficulty getting bail, and the bail amounts will be higher and more difficult to post. You may also have bail denied when it might otherwise have been granted.

It’s Always Better to Show Up

Your best option then is to appear, despite the potential dangers you may face at a hearing or trial. If you do fail to appear, the court may be willing to set aside this charge.

In such cases, you must prove that there was something physically keeping you from appearing. In general, they only accept two excuses. Either you are imprisoned for another crime, or you are undergoing emergency medical treatment.

Outside of those exceptions, you are expected to file a “continuance” prior to your time to appear. This is a legal notice to the court stating that you cannot appear, explaining why, and giving them forewarning. If you have a lawyer, contact them 24 hours before your court date. That should be enough time for them to file a continuance on your behalf.

Failing to appear in court opens you and your loved ones up to increased legal scrutiny. It can also impact your ability to be granted and post bail in the future. If you have more questions about failure to appear in court laws in California, contact Bail Hotline Bail Bonds today.

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