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FTA Warrant – What is it and how can I get it fixed?
An FTA warrant is essentially a bench warrant for your arrest that a judge issues because you “failed to appear” (FTA) for a court matter. You can “fix” the warrant by “recalling” or “quashing” it, which means having it cleared from the judicial system. You 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 you.
What is an FTA warrant?
A judge issues an FTA warrant when you “fail 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 you and bring you to court.
Once brought to court, the judge can either:
release you with a warning, or
place you in custody.
Failure to appear refers to a situation where you are legally required to make a court appearance, but you willfully fail to do so.
A legal requirement to appear in court arises when you either:
sign a written promise to appear,
are issued a subpoena to appear, or
while in court, are verbally “ordered back” by the judge to reappear at a future court date.
Failure to appear results in a criminal case/criminal charge under California law. It is most often charged under either:
Penal Code 1320 PC,
Penal Code 1320.5 PC, and
Vehicle Code 40508 VC.
How can I fix an FTA warrant?
Most California courts will not recall or drop a bench warrant on their own. If you are subject to a bench or FTA warrant, then you must work to get it cleared or recalled.
You can typically recall a warrant by appearing in court.
Our criminal defense attorneys at Shouse Law Group can usually get your warrant quashed by appearing in court in your place provided the reason for the FTA warrant was:
you missed a court appearance, or
you neglected to make a payment in connection with a misdemeanor offense.
If, though, you failed to obey a court order that arose out of a felony case, you must be present in court personally (with or without an attorney) in order to clear the warrant.
In trying to quash a bench warrant, we have had great success by arguing that:
you never received a notice to appear in court,
you complied with all the conditions and requirements within a court order,
you were unaware that a case had been filed, and/or,
there was a mistake in identity.
What is a crime under Penal Codes 1320 and 1320.5?
Penal Code 1320a PC is the California statute that makes it a crime to willfully fail to adhere to a court order to appear in court.
While this statute applies when you are released “on your own recognizance,” Penal Code 1320.5 is a similar code section that applies to your failure to appear when:
you have been charged or convicted of a felony, and
you have been released on bail.
The penalties under these code sections depend on the type of crime you were initially charged with or convicted of.
If you are charged with or convicted of a misdemeanor, then failure to appear is a misdemeanor.1 The penalties include:
If you are charged with or convicted of a felony, then failure to appear is charged as a felony.3 The crime is punishable by:
imprisonment in county jail for up to one year,
a fine of up to $5,000, or
a state prison sentence of up to three years.4
What is a crime under Vehicle Code 40508 VC?
Vehicle Code 40508a VC is the California statute that makes it a crime 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 you were guilty of the underlying traffic offense. You violate this law just by breaking a promise to:
appear in court,
appear to pay bail,
pay bail in installments,
pay a fine within the time authorized, or
comply with any condition of the court.6
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:
custody in county jail (as opposed to state prison) for up to six months, and/or
a maximum fine of $1,000.7
A violation of the law can also lead to a possible license suspension (per the DMV and the Department of Driver Services) for up to 30 days.
Given the harsh penalties for a failure to appear, if you are facing this charge, you must consult with a criminal defense lawyer or law firm for assistance. An attorney can help you develop a legal defense/disclaimer to contest the charges against you.
Note that most defense attorneys provide a free consultation. Further, the information you provide to a lawyer is privileged by the attorney-client relationship. This means a lawyer cannot disclose this information to someone else without your consent.
California Penal Code 1320 PC.
California Penal Code 19 PC.
California Penal Code 1320 PC.
See same. See also California Penal Code 1170h PC.
CALCRIM No. 2240 – Failure to Appear. Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (2017 edition).
California Vehicle Code 40508a VC.
See same. See also California Penal Code 19 PC.
About the Author
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, 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.