California Vehicle Code 40515 VC directs judges to issue bench warrants for defendants who fail to appear in court on an infraction charge if they 1) signed a written promise to appear, and 2) have not paid bail. The court must issue this bench warrant within 20 days of the failure to appear (FTA) or non-payment. In order to get the warrant recalled, the defendant would need to file a motion to quash the warrant.
The full text of the statute reads as follows:
40515 VC (a) When a person signs a written promise to appear or is granted a continuance of his or her promise to appear at the time and place specified in the written promise to appear or the continuance thereof, and has not posted full bail or has failed to pay an installment of bail as agreed to under Section 40510.5, the magistrate may issue and have delivered for execution a warrant for his or her arrest within 20 days after his or her failure to appear before the magistrate or pay an installment of bail as agreed, or if the person promises to appear before an officer authorized to accept bail other than a magistrate and fails to do so on or before the date on which he or she promised to appear, then, within 20 days after the delivery of the written promise to appear by the officer to a magistrate having jurisdiction over the offense.
(b) When the person violates his or her promise to appear before an officer authorized to receive bail other than a magistrate, the officer shall immediately deliver to a magistrate having jurisdiction over the offense charged the written promise to appear and the complaint, if any, filed by the arresting officer.
Under 40515 VC, people charged with traffic violations will have a bench warrant issued for their arrest if they signed a written promise to appear in court and they either:
- failed to appear (FTA) in court as promised, or
- failed to pay bail (or an installment payment that has been previously agreed to) on time
California law requires the magistrate judge to issue the bench warrant within 20 days of the date the person was a no-show or failed to pay. And if the courts reschedules the court appearance to a later date – and the defendant still fails to appear or pay – then the warrant must issue within 20 days of the later date.1
After a bench warrant has been issued, the defendant named in the warrant is vulnerable to arrest at any time. This typically happens during traffic stops: A person gets pulled over for speeding or failure to signal, and the officer arrests the driver after running his/her name and seeing the warrant. (And in some cases, the DMV can suspend the defendants’s driver’s license for FTA.)2
The process of getting a bench warrant recalled requires the defendant (or his/her laywer) to file a motion to quash the warrant with the issuing court. Courts typically recall bench warrants if the defendant has no other history of missing court. Then if the warrant gets recalled, the underlying traffic case will proceed as normal. But if the court declines to quash the warrant, then the defendant must remain in custody until the case resolves or he/she bails out.3
- California Vehicle Code 40515 VC – Issuance of Warrant for Violation of Promise to Appear. See also People v. Weitzer (Cal. App. 1st Dist., 1969), 269 Cal. App. 2d 274, 75 Cal. Rptr. 318.
- 40515 VC.
- Same. See also People v. Superior Court of San Diego County (Cal. App. 4th Dist., 1968), 262 Cal. App. 2d 283, 68 Cal. Rptr. 629.