Legal Dictionary

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Failure to Appear

In California and in most states, traffic violations require the person cited to sign the citation, indicating he or she promises to appear in court at a future date and time. When a person fails to respond to the traffic citation by mail or appear in court, at a specific date and time, the court may file a Failure to Appear charge and issue a bench warrant (court order for your arrest) pursuant to California Vehicle Code section 40508(a).

When a Failure to Appear is issued, the court reports it to the California Department of Motor Vehicles ("DMV") and the DMV may suspend your driver's license or refuse to renew it. If you are stopped by the police and you have a pending warrant or your driver's license is suspended, you could be arrested on the warrant and face a new misdemeanor charge for driving without a valid license or driving on a suspended license.

A Failure to Appear is a misdemeanor charge and appears on background checks and can affect your prospective job opportunities, and any opportunity which calls for a background check. The Failure to Appear does not expire and remains open until you (or your attorney) appear in court to recall the warrant.

It is a matter of time before you get pulled over by the police and placed under arrest and taken to jail for the Failure to Appear. It is not likely the police are actively looking to arrest you on your Failure to Appear. However, any encounter with the police, for whatever reason, brings you that much closer to being arrested and going to jail. Consult with a skilled criminal defense attorney who can help you fix your Failure to Appear.