LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney Judith Michael Fouladi | Feb 21, 2011

What Happens When You Fail to Appear for a Traffic Ticket?

Any willful violation of a written promise to appear in court (or of a lawfully granted continuance by a judicial officer), is a misdemeanor, even if the original charge was an infraction (which is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, plus the penalty assessment). The local prosecutor or the court, may reduce the charge of failing to appear to an infraction (Penal Code section 17(b)). If you fail to appear, the court may do any one of the following:

1.) Issue a bench warrant for your arrest (see VC section 40515);

2.) Treat the failure to appear an an election to have a trial by written declaration for the underlying infraction (VC section 40903);

3.) Impose a civil assessment of up to $300 for failing to appear 10 days after mailing a warning notice to the defendant's last known address. Note: if the defendant does appear within the time specified in the notice and shows good cause for the failure to appear, the court must vacate the assessment.

4.) Notify the DMV of the failure to appear, which typically leads to the DMV taking action to suspend the individual's license.

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