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5 Things You NEED To Know If You Fail To Appear In Court

If you were arrested and charged with a misdemeanor or felony in California, you will be given a court date to appear for your arraignment.

If you fail to appear at criminal court on the scheduled date and time, you face an additional criminal charge of failing to appear1.

What Does The Prosecutor Need To Prove For Conviction?

To be convicted of failing to appear in court the prosecution must prove all 4 elements of this offense by the criminal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.

  1. You were charged with either a misdemeanor or felony offense
  2. You were released from custody on an O.R. release. (On your own recognisance)
  3. You willingly failed to appear on your ordered or scheduled court date
  4. Your failure to appear was with the intent or purpose of evading the process of the court

How Does The Prosecutor Prove You Did Not Show Up Willingly?

By not showing up in court, this constitutes proof of your willingness to not appear. No intent to violate the law is required2.

There is a legal presumption that you intended to evade the process of the court if you willfully fail to appear within 14-days of your assigned court appearance. 

Is Failing To Appear In Court In California A Misdemeanor Or Felony Offense?

If you willingly fail to appear after having been released O.R., and you had been charged with a misdemeanor offense, your failure to appear is a misdemeanor3.

If your underlying offense was a felony and you were released from custody after posting bail or bond, and you willingly failed to appear for your court appearance, it is treated as a felony4.

Failure to appear on a traffic ticket is a misdemeanor5.

What Are The Penalties For Failing to Appear In Court?

If your underlying charge or conviction was a misdemeanor, you are subject to the following misdemeanor penalties:

  • Incarceration in county jail for up to 6-months
  • And/or a fine of up to $1,000
  • And/or a suspension of your driver’s license if your failure to appear was in traffic court6.

If you were charged with a felony, released O.R., and failed to willingly appear and with the intent to evade the process of the court, you face the following felony penalties:

  • Incarceration in the county jail for up to one-year
  • And/or a fine of up to $5,000 if you were released O.R., and up to $10,000 if you posted bail or bond
  • Or, incarceration in state prison for 16-months, 2 or 3-years

Are There Any Other Potential Penalties If You Fail To Appear?

The court could also change the terms and conditions of your release by increasing the bond if you paid one or require that you remain in jail until trial or disposition of your case. 

You are also subject to a fine of $300 for failure to appear for a misdemeanor, felony, or infraction7.

For this fine to apply, the prosecutor must show that a notice to appear in court was sent to your address and you failed to appear without good cause. 

Will Failing To Appear In Court Have Immigration Consequences?

Generally, a failure to appear under Penal Code § 1320 will not result in any negative immigration consequences.

For a non-citizen to face deportation or to make him/her “inadmissible”, the crime must be one of moral turpitude, a firearm offense, drug conviction, aggravated felony, or that involving domestic violence.

If the underlying offense for which you failed to appear includes any of these, then you are subject to deportation or being deemed inadmissible for immigration purposes.

Are There Defenses For Failing To Appear?

There are defenses to the crime of failing to appear including the following.

You Did Not Willfully Fail To Appear In Court

You do need a valid and credible excuse for failing to appear. While a judge might accept your excuse that you simply forgot, in some cases you may need a more convincing explanation that your failure to appear was not willful.

There are many examples in which you did not willfully fail to appear:

  • You might have to show that you had been injured,
  • Were extremely ill, or
  • Had to take care of an emergency such as taking someone to the hospital.

Additional reasons may include:

  • You wrote the wrong date down,
  • Your attorney’s office gave you the wrong date,
  • You were in custody on another unrelated matter, or
  • You lacked any means to get to court and were unable to inform the court of your inability to attend.

No Intent To Evade The Court Process. 

This is similar to the first defense. You might be able to show lack of intent by explaining that you had a serious family emergency, suffered an injury or serious illness, and simply were unable to contact the court.

Next Steps If You Failed To Appear In Court

If you failed to appear in court and need to clear a bench warant.

If you have been arrested and would like to learn more about how attorneys charge.

If you would like to discuss a pending case with an attorney contact the Aizman Law Firm at 818-351-9555 for a free confidential consultation.

Request A Free Consultation 818-351-9555 


  1. Penal Code § 1320 or 1320.5 []
  2. Penal Code § 7(1). []
  3. Penal Code § 1320 []
  4. Penal Code § 1320.5 []
  5. VC § 40508 []
  6. Vehicle Code § 40509.5 []
  7. Penal Code § 1214.1 []

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