California Penal Code 853.8 PC requires courts to issue bench warrants for people who fail to appear in court on a misdemeanor charge if they 1) signed a written promise to appear, and 2) have not posted bail. This bench warrant must issue within 20 days after the failure to appear (FTA). And the only way to get the warrant recalled is through a motion to quash the warrant.
The full text of the statute reads as follows:
853.8 When a person signs a written promise to appear at the time and place specified in the written promise to appear and has not posted bail as provided in Section 853.6, the magistrate shall issue and have delivered for execution a warrant for his or her arrest within 20 days after his or her failure to appear as promised or within 20 days after his or her failure to appear after a lawfully granted continuance of his or her promise to appear.
Under PC 853.8, people who signed a written promise to appear in court and who have not posted bail will have a bench warrant issued for their arrest if they then fail to appear (FTA). The magistrate judge is required to issue a bench warrant within 20 days of the date the person was a no-show. And if the judge grants a continuance (postponement) to a later date – and the person still no-shows – then the warrant must issue within 20 days of the later date.1
Once a bench warrant is outstanding, the person named in the warrant can be arrested and hauled into court at any time. So if a person with an outstanding warrant gets pulled over for a traffic violation, the police will immediately arrest the driver if the police run his/her name and see the warrant. (And depending on the case, the DMV may also suspend the person’s driver’s license for FTA.)2
In order to get a warrant recalled, the person (or his/her attorney) must file a motion to quash the warrant with the court that issued the warrant. The court will then put the matter “on calendar” for a hearing. Then at the hearing, the person (or his/her attorney) will ask the judge to recall the warrant.
Judges usually recall bench warrants as long as the person does not have a history of missing court. Once the warrant gets recalled, the underlying misdemeanor case will proceed as if the bench warrant was never issued. If the judge declines to recall the warrant, then the person must remain in jail pending the resolution of the case or until he/she can bail out.3
- California Penal Code 853.8 PC – Issuance of warrant for arrest of violator. People v. Weitzer (Cal. App. 1st Dist., 1969), 269 Cal. App. 2d 274, 75 Cal. Rptr. 318.
- PC 853.8. See also See also Hernandez v. Department of Motor Vehicles (Cal. App. 1st Dist., 2020), 49 Cal. App. 5th 928.
- PC 853.8. People v. Superior Court of San Diego County (Cal. App. 4th Dist., 1968), 262 Cal. App. 2d 283, 68 Cal. Rptr. 629.