Penal Code 1214.1 PC – Fines for Failure to Appear

Penal Code 1214.1 PC is the California statute that says a person must pay a $300 fine if he fails to appear in a court-ordered criminal proceeding. This proceeding can be for any of the following crimes:

According to this code section:

“In addition to any other penalty in infraction, misdemeanor, or felony cases, the court may impose a civil assessment of up to three hundred dollars ($300) against a defendant who fails, after notice and without good cause, to appear in court for a proceeding authorized by law…”

Examples

Note that the failure to appear may also lead to additional criminal charges against an accused under Penal Codes 1320 PC and 1320.5 PC.

California Penal Code 1320 sets out the crime of “failing to appear” for defendants who are released on their own recognizance. Penal Code 1320.5 describes “failure to appear” for California defendants who are released on bail.

The penalties for failing to appear under these two statutes can include:

  1. either a misdemeanor or a felony charge, and
  2. imprisonment in county jail for up to one year.

Please note that if a person does not appear in court for a California traffic ticket, he be charged with “failure to appear” under California Vehicle Code 40508 VC.

Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

money under a gavel

1. What are the fines under 1214.1 PC?

Penal Code 1214.1 PC is the California statute that says a person must pay a $300 fine if he fails to appear in a court ordered criminal proceeding.1 This proceeding can be for any of the following crimes:

  • infractions,
  • misdemeanors, or
  • felonies.2

Note that a prosecutor must prove two things in order for a defendant to be fined under this statute. These are:

  1. a notice was sent to the defendant telling him to appear in court, and
  2. the party ignored the notice “without good cause.”3

The use of the language “without good cause” means that a defendant may have a valid legal defense to any charges under PC 1214.1 if he failed to appear because of a good cause. One example would be that an emergency led to his failure to appear.

2. Is the “failure to appear” a crime under Penal Codes 1320 and 1320.5 PC?

A person can be charged with the crime of “failure to appear” in California if:

  1. he is charged with or convicted of a California crime,
  2. he is released from custody, and
  3. he willfully fails to appear in court when required to do so, in order to evade the process of the court.4

California Penal Code 1320 sets out the crime of “failing to appear” for defendants who are released on their own recognizance.5 Penal Code 1320.5 describes “failure to appear” for California defendants who are released on bail.6

The penalties for failure to appear in California depend on the type of crime that the party was initially charged with or convicted of.

If initially charged with or convicted of a misdemeanor, and the defendant was released on his own recognizance, then failure to appear is a misdemeanor.7 The penalties include up to six months in county jail.

But if a party was either:

  • charged with or convicted of a felony, and released on his own recognizance, or
  • charged with or convicted of a felony, and released on bail,

then failure to appear will be a felony under California law.8

Potential penalties include a county jail sentence of up to one year.9

attorney speaking with judge

3. Are there legal defenses to accusations of violating Penal Codes 1320 and 1320.5?

Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a defendant can raise if accused of a crime under either PC 1320 or 1320.5. These include showing that the defendant:

  1. did not willfully fail to appear, and
  2. did not specifically intend to evade the process of the court

As to the first defense, please recall that a defendant must act “willfully” to be guilty under these statutes. This means it is always a defense for an accused to say he did not act with willful intentions. For example, maybe a defendant was simply unaware of a court date or proceeding.

As to the second defense, recall that a defendant cannot be charged under these statutes unless he had the specific intent to evade the process of the court. A defense, therefore, is to show that a defendant did not act with this requisite intent. Maybe he missed a court appearance, for example, on account of an emergency.

4. What is failure to appear per Vehicle Code 40508 VC?

Vehicle Code 40508 VC is the California statute that says it is a crime if a person fails to appear in court for a traffic ticket.

A prosecutor must prove three things to successfully convict a person under this statute. These are:

  1. the accused received a traffic citation,
  2. in connection with the citation, the accused signed a written promise to appear in court (usually traffic court), and
  3. the accused then willfully failed to appear.10

A violation of VC 40508 is charged as a California misdemeanor. The crime is punishable by:

  • up to six months in county jail,
  • a fine of up to $1,000,11 and/or
  • suspension of the defendant's driver's license.12

Were you accused of failure to appear in California? Call us for help…

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Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you know is interested in more information on Penal Code 1214.1, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LawFirm.

For information on failure to appear laws in Nevada, please see our article on: “Nevada Laws re "Failure to Appear" (NRS 199.335) Explained by Las Vegas Criminal Defense Lawyers.”


Legal References:

  1. California Penal Code 1214.1 PC. This code section states: “In addition to any other penalty in infraction, misdemeanor, or felony cases, the court may impose a civil assessment of up to three hundred dollars ($300) against a defendant who fails, after notice and without good cause, to appear in court for a proceeding authorized by law…”

  2. See same.

  3. See same.

  4. California Penal Code 1320 PC.

  5. See same.

  6. California Penal Code 1320.5 PC.

  7. California Penal Code 1320 PC.

  8. California Penal Codes 1320 and 1320.5 PC.

  9. See same.

  10. Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (“CALCRIM”) 2240 – Failure to Appear (Veh. Code, § 40508a).

  11. California Penal Code 19 PC.

  12. California Vehicle Code 13365 VC.

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