What are the Penalties for Failing to Appear in Court in California?

California law requires that when you are released on your own recognizance, you sign an O.R. release agreement. This agreement states that you promise:

  1. to appear for all court dates
  2. to abide by all court-imposed conditions
  3. that you will not leave the state without first obtaining permission from the court
  4. to waive extradition in the event that you fail to appear for court and are apprehended outside California
  5. acknowledge that you have been informed as to the penalties and consequences for failing to appear in court.

If you never signed an O.R. release agreement,  then you have not  legally been released on your own recognizance. As a result, if you subsequently fail to appear for court, you are not subject to any additional penalty for failing to appear for court, since you were never technically released O.R.

However, if all court procedures were followed and you did execute a written release, the judge will likely issue a California bench warrant for your arrest as it is written in  the California Penal Code 978.5:

 (a) A bench warrant of arrest may be issued whenever a defendant fails to appear in court as required by law including, but not limited to, the following situations:

  (1) If the defendant is ordered by a judge or magistrate to personally appear in court at a specific time and place.

  (2) If the defendant is released from custody on bail and is ordered by a judge or magistrate, or other person authorized to accept bail, to personally appear in court at a specific time and place.

  (3) If the defendant is released from custody on his own recognizance and promises to personally appear in court at a specific time and place.

  (4) If the defendant is released from custody or arrest upon citation by a peace officer or other person authorized to issue citations and the defendant has signed a promise to personally appear in court at a specific time and place.

  (5) If a defendant is authorized to appear by counsel and the court or magistrate orders that the defendant personally appear in court at a specific time and place.

  (6) If an information or indictment has been filed in the superior court and the court has fixed the date and place for the defendant personally to appear for arraignment.

  (b) The bench warrant may be served in any county in the same manner as a warrant of arrest.

The Penalties for Failing to Appear in Court

 If you were originally charged with a misdemeanor, failing to appear is also a misdemeanor, subjecting you to a maximum $1,000 fine and a maximum one-year county jail sentence.  If you were originally charged with a felony offense, failing to appear for court is then also a felony. Felony “failure to appear” subjects you to up to three-years in the California state prison and a maximum $5,000 fine.

These  penalties for failing to appear in Court are found in the California Penal Code 1320:

(a) Every person who is charged with or convicted of the commission of a misdemeanor who is released from custody on his or her own recognizance and who in order to evade the process of the court willfully fails to appear as required, is guilty of a misdemeanor. It shall be presumed that a defendant who willfully fails to appear within 14 days of the date assigned for his or her appearance intended to evade the process of the court. 

(b) Every person who is charged with or convicted of the commission of a felony who is released from custody on his or her own recognizance and who in order to evade the process of the court willfully fails to appear as required, is guilty of a felony, and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars ($5,000) or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170, or in the county jail for not more than one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment. It shall be presumed that a defendant who willfully fails to appear within 14 days of the date assigned for his or her appearance intended to evade the process of the court.

If you have any questions about an O.R. release and/or failing to appear in court , please call our office at 619-330-588.  Mr. Elliott N. Kanter is an experienced and skilled San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney who who will evaluate your situation and advise you of all your legal options. If you prefer, simply fill out our online case review for our prompt reply.

This article is for educational and marketing purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship.