California Vehicle Code 40508 VC covers a broken promise to appear in court or to pay bail following a traffic citation or ticket.
A failure to appear in connection with other criminal charges is covered by California Penal Code 1320, failure to appear.
Failure to appear after a traffic citation or ticket is a misdemeanor -- even if the original traffic violation was just an infraction.
Violation of California Vehicle Code 40508 VC can subject you to:
- Up to six months in county jail, and/or
- A fine of up to $1,000, and/or
- Possible loss of your driving privilege for up to 30 days
- A hold on your drivers license (Vehicle Code 40509.5).
To help you understand California Vehicle Code 40508, our California criminal defense attorneys discuss the following, below:
- 1. Acts that violate California Vehicle Code 40508 VC
- 2. Penalties under California Vehicle Code 40508
- 3. Defenses to Vehicle Code 40508
When you are issued a traffic ticket, the officer will have you sign a written promise to appear at the time and place specified.
If you willfully fail to appear as promised, you violate Vehicle Code 40508 VC.1 You willfully fail to appear when you are willingly a no-show. It does not necessary that you intend to break the law.2
Nor does it matter whether you are guilty or innocent of the underlying traffic citation.3 You violate California Vehicle Code 40508 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.4
Violation of Vehicle Code 40508 is a misdemeanor. The penalties are:
- Up to six months in county jail, and/or
- A fine of up to $1,000.5
In addition, if you fail to pay a fine, or an installment for bail or a fine, as agreed, the court may:
- impound your driver's license, and
- order you not to drive for up to 30 days.6
You commit a misdemeanor violation of Vehicle Code 40508 even if:
- your original offense was only an infraction,7
- you thereafter pay the amount owed to the court in full,8 or
- you thereafter comply with the court order.9
However, because violation of Vehicle Code 40508 is a misdemeanor, you are entitled to a jury trial. This is so, even if you were not entitled to a jury trial on the original charge.10
Failing to appear under Vehicle Code 40508 can also lead to a California bench warrant. However, you cannot be subject to a warrant under Section 40508 if your failure to appear was related solely to parking tickets.11
Legal defenses to charges under Vehicle Code 40508 may include (but are not limited to):
- You could not appear for reasons beyond your reasonable control,
- Your arrest was for an unpaid traffic ticket,
- You paid your obligation to the court in full before the due date,
- Your license cannot be suspended because you were in Chapter 13 bankruptcy.12
Call us for help…
For more information about California's laws on failure to appear, or to discuss your case confidentially with one of our criminal defense attorneys, please don't hesitate to contact us at Shouse Law Group. Our California criminal law offices are located in and around Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, the Central Valley and other cities throughout California.
Additionally, our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys represent clients who have been issued Nevada bench warrants or charged with the crime of failure to appear in court in Nevada. For more information, we invite you to contact our local attorneys at one of our Nevada law offices, located in Reno and Las Vegas.
- California Vehicle Code 40508 VC: (a) A person willfully violating his or her written promise to appear or a lawfully granted continuance of his or her promise to appear in court or before a person authorized to receive a deposit of bail is guilty of a misdemeanor regardless of the disposition of the charge upon which he or she was originally arrested.
See also Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (CALCRIM) 2240: The defendant is charged [in Count ] with failing to appear in court [in violation of Vehicle Code section 40508(a)]. To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that:
- The defendant received a citation;
- In connection with that citation, the defendant (signed a written promise to appear (in court/[or] before a person authorized to receive a deposit of bail)/ [or] received a lawfully granted continuance of (his/her) promise to appear); AND
- The defendant willfully failed to appear (in court/[or] before a person authorized to receive a deposit of bail).
- CALCRIM 2240, endnote 1: Someone commits an act willfully when he or she does it willingly or on purpose. It is not required that he or she intend to break the law, hurt someone else, or gain any advantage.
- Same. [It does not matter whether the defendant was found guilty of the violation of the Vehicle Code alleged in the original citation.]
- California Vehicle Code 40508 VC, endnote 1.
- California Penal Code 19 PC. Except in cases where a different punishment is prescribed by any law of this state, every offense declared to be a misdemeanor is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both.
- California Vehicle Code 40508(d): If a person convicted of an infraction fails to pay bail in installments as agreed to under Section 40510.5, or a fine or an installment thereof within the time authorized by the court, the court may, except as otherwise provided in this subdivision, impound the person's driver's license and order the person not to drive for a period not to exceed 30 days. Before returning the license to the person, the court shall endorse on the reverse side of the license that the person was ordered not to drive, the period for which that order was made, and the name of the court making the order. If a defendant with a class C or M driver's license satisfies the court that impounding his or her driver's license and ordering the defendant not to drive will affect his or her livelihood, the court shall order that the person limit his or her driving for a period not to exceed 30 days to driving that is essential in the court's determination to the person's employment, including the person's driving to and from his or her place of employment if other means of transportation are not reasonably available. The court shall provide for the endorsement of the limitation on the person's license. The impounding of the license and ordering the person not to drive or the order limiting the person's driving does not constitute a suspension of the license, but a violation of the order constitutes contempt of court.
- California Vehicle Code 40508(a), endnote 1.
- California Vehicle Code 40508(b), endnote 1.
- California Vehicle Code 40508(c), endnote 1.
- People v. Foster (2001) 89 Cal.App.4th Supp. 1, 107 Cal.Rptr.2d 612 (“[B]ecause Vehicle Code section 40508, subdivision (a), is a misdemeanor and not an infraction, the traffic defendant is entitled to a jury trial on the failure to appear charge…”).
- 71 Op.Atty.Gen. 10-26-87.
- In re Young (1980) 10 B.R. 17 (“Plaintiff is entitled to a renewal license during the pendency of her Chapter 13 case, and discharge of her obligations upon completion of the payments provided for in her Chapter 13 plan. Should plaintiff convert to a liquidation case under Chapter 7 of the Code, the obligation for the traffic fine would not be dischargeable, and the Department of Motor Vehicles would be justified in revoking plaintiff's license.”).