Failure to appear in California court is a crime – Penal Code 1320 and 1320.5. If you are court-ordered to appear in court for a criminal hearing, you must arrive at that specific courthouse on the proper date and time. If an individual has been ordered to appear in court on a criminal case and evades that order by failing to appear, a bench warrant will be issued for arrest.
“Failure to appear” in court means that an individual has missed or evaded a scheduled court hearing. The failure may be deemed a felony, a misdemeanor or an infraction, depending upon the circumstances involved. Once a warrant is issued by a judge for failing to appear, the person can be immediately arrested and detained by a police officer at any time. For misdemeanors, the bench warrant must be served between the times of 6 am and 10 pm, but repeated failures to appear in court combined with outstanding warrants will waive this courtesy.
A person charged or convicted of a felony who willfully fails to appear in court is charged with another felony and, upon conviction, can be fined $5000 and imprisoned in a California state penitentiary for a year. Both penalties may be imposed.
Your personal appearance in court or a Los Angeles criminal attorney’s appearance on your behalf is the only way a bench warrant may be cleared or removed. If your failure to appear concerns a felony hearing, only your personal appearance can clear or remove the bench warrant.
You may be immediately incarcerated with no bail possibility for appearing in court after a bench warrant has been issued. Bail may be set, but you may be incarcerated while awaiting bond payment or the full bail amount.
You may simply be released with a warning.
In the case of a misdemeanor charge, an attorney can investigate whether the warrant was improperly served, such as outside time frame restrictions, and it can be dismissed. If the warrant was not entered into the National Crime Information Center, it can be dismissed.
There are reasons for failure to appear in court besides willfully ignoring a court appearance. These may be:
The appearance of a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer beside you in court is important, as this will be viewed by the court as contrition about failure to appear and show your desire that your attorney present valid reasons for your previous failure to appear in court.
Petition may then be made that you be released on a low amount of bail, since you are not posing a flight risk.
Missing a court date is no reason to allow yourself to be placed under arrest. Please contact a Los Angeles criminal attorney and discuss your options immediately. In many cases like yours, the bench warrant can be cleared without unfavorable consequences to you.
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