If drivers have one top priority, it would be to keep everybody else safe on the road. Unfortunately, not everyone recognizes the importance of preserving road safety. Hence, the law appoints certain authorized individuals to uphold harmony on the streets. One way to settle road misfits is to issue traffic tickets. Running a red light, speeding, or disobeying other traffic rules will lead to a traffic citation.
For starters who have not received a ticket in their lives but are curious to know what happens next, the police will request for you to present necessary papers after being pulled over. Documents like your driver's license, insurance papers, and your automobile registration certificate will be asked from you. In some instances, the police will tell you to exit your vehicle for inspection (take note that they can only do so if they reasonably suspect that you are armed. To know more, read about your rights against police officers). The next stage is where you will be conversing with the officer (only if you want to, but you are by no means obliged to give information other than the documents stated earlier). Usually, the citation will only mandate you to pay the necessary fines. But should the officer decide to take legal actions, then you will be given a “Notice to Appear” which will encompass the allegations you will be facing.
After that, you must attend your court hearing on or before the indicated date on the citation. Otherwise, you will be violating California Vehicle Code VC 40508. This section explicitly states that anyone who willingly disregards his/her written pledge to attend the hearing of their case is guilty of a misdemeanor. In legal terminology, such circumstances would be under the “Failure to Appear” or FTA case.
Just like most laws, this vehicle code has restrictions and specifications. Here are some of them:
- The defendant can only be ruled guilty under this law if he/she intentionally did not respond to his/her ticket. Meaning, a deliberate intent that caused the individual to miss his/her court date is necessary.
- The guilt or innocence of the individual for the offense cited in the ticket does not matter. The judge only needs to confirm that the individual broke his/her commitment to attend the trial to be convicted of FTA.
- Other events, such as disobeying a court order, not paying bail installments, or not paying the fine on or before the stipulated deadline, may also result in a conviction pursuant to this law.
Penalties for Failure to Appear in Court for Traffic Ticket
If you do not honor your legal obligation to process your citation believing that it is no big deal, then you might want to realize that the penalties can be quite severe -- yes, despite the fact that your traffic violation was simply an infraction. VC 40508 enumerates the following penalties for FTA for a traffic ticket:
- Impounding of driver's license;
- A civil assessment of $300 maximum;
- A jail sentence of up to 6 months; and/or
- Approximately $1,000 in fines.
Keep in mind that a bench warrant may also be issued for your arrest. If you want to know more about bench warrants, we covered that topic just for you.
Legal Defenses for VC 40508
There are cases where you simply could not attend the hearing even if you wanted to. In which case, you are highly encouraged to speak with a defense attorney to help you settle your charge. Usually, excuses such as hospitalization, military service, or incarceration are a few grounds that the court accepts. But if you failed to appear to court out of your own irresponsibleness (i.e.: losing the ticket) or for having petty reasons (i.e.: you had to attend your classes), then things might not work well for you.
Nevertheless, we have gathered a few legal defenses that you can use to counter an FTA for a traffic ticket charge:
- You did not ignore your court date on purpose;
- You did not give a written agreement or sign on any document to signify your oath to attend to your court date; and
- Other errands demand your presence and attention more (i.e.: an emergency).
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