Every crime in California is defined by a specific code section. Our attorneys explain the law, penalties and best defense strategies for every major crime in California.
An FTA warrant is essentially a bench warrant for a person’s arrest that a judge issues because the person “failed to appear” (FTA) for a court matter. A defendant can “fix” the warrant by “recalling” or “quashing” it, which means having it cleared from the judicial system. Defendants typically must appear in court to recall an FTA warrant.
A failure to appear in court is a crime in California. Prosecutors typically file an FTA charge under either:
Note that these are additional charges to the original charges that were filed against a defendant.
A judge issues an FTA warrant when a person “fails to appear” for a court date. The warrant is basically a bench warrant (as opposed to an arrest warrant), issued pursuant to Penal Code 978.5, which authorizes police officers or law enforcement officers to arrest the person and bring him/her to court.
Once brought to court, the judge can either:
Failure to appear refers to a situation where a person is legally required to make a court appearance, but he/she willfully fails to do so.
A legal requirement to appear in court arises when a person either:
Failure to appear results in a criminal case/criminal charge under California law. It is most often charged under either:
Most California courts will not recall or drop a bench warrant on their own. If a party is subject to a bench or FTA warrant, then he/she must work to get it cleared or recalled.
People can typically recall a warrant by appearing in court.
People can have their criminal defense attorney appear in court on their behalf, provided that:
If, though, a person failed to obey a court order that arose out of a felony case, the party must be present in court personally (with or without an attorney) in order to clear the warrant.
In trying to quash a bench warrant, people (or their attorneys) can try to do so by arguing that:
Penal Code 1320a PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person willfully to fail to adhere to a court order to appear in court.
While this statute applies to defendants that are released “on their own recognizance,” Penal Code 1320.5 is a similar code section that applies to a defendant’s failure to appear when:
The penalties under these code sections depend on the type of crime the defendant was initially charged with or convicted of.
If charged with or convicted of a misdemeanor, then failure to appear is a misdemeanor.1 The penalties include:
If charged with or convicted of a felony, then failure to appear is charged as a felony.3 The crime is punishable by:
Vehicle Code 40508a VC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to fail to appear in traffic court following a traffic stop or traffic violation.5
Note that a prosecutor does not have to show that the accused was guilty of the underlying traffic offense. A person violates this law just by breaking a promise to:
A violation of this law is a misdemeanor. This is true even if the original traffic violation was only for an infraction.
The offense is punishable by:
A violation of the law can also lead to:
Given the harsh penalties for a failure to appear, defendants facing this charge must consult with a criminal defense lawyer or law firm for assistance. An attorney can help an accused develop a legal defense/disclaimer to contest the charges against him/her.
Note that most defense attorneys provide a free consultation. Further, the information a party provides to a lawyer is privileged by the attorney-client relationship. This means a lawyer cannot disclose this information to someone else without the party’s consent.
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.
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