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What Happens When You Don’t Show Up in Court?

courtroom, justice scales in courtroom
What Happens When You Don’t Show Up in Court?

Failure to Appear in Court

It happens to all of us: We forget appointments, school and work deadlines, birthdays, and even buying all the dinner ingredients at the grocery store. These things are normal, but if you take it too far and forget to attend your court appearance for whatever reason, you could get in legal trouble.

California Vehicle Code 40508a states that a person who willfully violates their written promise to appear or a continuance of their promise to appear in court is guilty of a misdemeanor regardless of the disposition of the charge upon which they were originally arrested. It is also a misdemeanor to willfully fail to comply with a condition of a court order, which may include appearing at scheduled hearings.

In other words, if you fail to appear in court, you will get a misdemeanor charge in addition to the accusation(s) you were originally arrested for. As a result, you could be looking at extra criminal charges and subsequent penalties upon a conviction.

Common Reasons for Missing a Court Appearance

Why don’t some people show up for their scheduled court date? Common reasons include:

  • It was an accident
  • It was on purpose
  • Schedule conflicts
  • Work obligations
  • Relocating and not receiving notice (or not receiving notice altogether)

However, these are not good enough excuses for missing a court hearing. A judge may not take your failure to appear lightly, as it could come across as being careless or uninterested in sorting out your charges. Although, there are some instances in which you could possibly show good cause for failing to appear in court, such as:

  • Medical emergencies
  • Family emergencies
  • Legal counsel cancels without notice
  • Never received notice

Even if your justifications for failing to appear are honest and true, that does not mean a court judge will be merciful to you. Don’t expect them to feel bad and give you a second chance: You need a lawyer to help you avoid the consequences of failing to appear in court.

Could I Go to Jail for Failing to Appear in Court?

In short, yes, you could go to jail for missing your court appearance in California. In addition, you could face the following penalties on top of the penalties imposed for your initial charges:

  • Up to 1 year in jail
  • Up to $1,000 fines
  • Driver’s license suspension
  • A warrant for your arrest

If you missed your court appearance for a misdemeanor, felony, or traffic ticket, a judge may assume the worst and believe you are a fugitive, running from the law. As such, they could issue a bench warrant for your arrest, meaning the police could show up at any time and any place — such as your work or school — and arrest you before bringing you to court.

Sound scary? It is. That is why you cannot take the risk of facing the justice system alone. With our Santa Barbara criminal defense lawyers on your side, you can rest assured that your case and future rest in good, trusted hands. Learn how we can best serve you by contacting our firm at (510) 907-6600!