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Penalties For Missing a Court Date in California

Posted in Criminal Defense on July 27, 2019

To answer this question, we must ask another question. Why were you going to court in the first place?

If you miss a divorce or other civil court date, and you are a party in that case, the judge may enter an unfavorable default judgement against you.

If you miss a traffic ticket or other infraction court date, the state may suspend your drivers’ license. In 2016, the state suspended about four million drivers’ license for failure to appear in court or missing a court-imposed payment or other deadline.

Finally, if you miss a criminal court date, the judge will probably revoke your bond and issue a warrant for your arrest. Sometimes, officers try to serve these warrants right away. But more often, these warrants linger in the computer for several months or even several years. Eventually, however, the defendant runs a stop sign or otherwise runs afoul of law enforcement, the warrant pops up on the computer screen, and officers arrested the defendant.

If officers do not serve the arrest warrant straightaway, the defendant may be able to file a Serna speedy trial motion and have the warrant, and therefore the arrest and the case, thrown out of court. However, if you missed a court date, you do not want to wait for the police to do something. Instead, you want to work with an attorney and take the bull by the horns.

Civil Case

In all three situations, excuses usually do not fly. Unless you were in jail in another county or dead, there is usually no excuse for missing a court date.

In divorces and other civil matters, parties usually have thirty days to undo default judgments. If an attorney makes a motion for new trial before the court loses its plenary power, the judge almost always approves the motion. It’s possible, though much harder, to undo older default judgements.

Traffic Ticket

Typically, attorneys can lift traffic ticket warrants and place the cases back on the docket. At that point, it is like the matter starts over again.

In court, the full range of defenses are available. An attorney may be able to leverage a defense into a dismissal of charges or a not-guilty verdict at trial. In other cases, a favorable pretrial settlement, like a reduced fine and/or reduced charges, may be in the cards.

Criminal Case

An attorney may be able to lift a warrant in a criminal case as well. However, this process usually includes an appearance at a county jail, where the defendant will be booked and released. This process may take several hours.

Before voluntarily surrendering, make sure an attorney is with you. Also, as mentioned, make sure you are prepared to stay for several hours. The process is usually a bit faster if you surrender in the middle of the day during the middle of the week.

When the judge issued a warrant, the judge revoked the existing bond. The judge probably imposed additional conditions on any future bond. The amount might be higher or the conditions might be more restrictive.

Speak to an Attorney

One final note. If the defendant misses a trial date, the judge may immediately revoke the bond. But if it is a preliminary or plea hearing, the judge may wait a couple of days before revoking the bond. If you missed a court date, you typically have the power to get things back on track. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney, contact Graham Donath Law Offices, APC. Convenient payment plans are available.