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Avoid Failure to Appear in Court in Los Angeles

If you have been ordered to appear in court on a criminal, misdemeanor, or traffic case, failing to do so will result in the issuance of a bench warrant and could lead to severe repercussions. If you are involved in a legal matter where court appearances will be required, retaining an experienced attorney will ensure that you avoid a failure to appear. Despite your best attempts, often times circumstances in life may prevent you from appearing in court. It is therefore essential to have an lawyer appear on your behalf. For those who have missed their court appearances, the Law Offices of Elena Mebtahi can provide immediate help. Do not ignore a failure to appear. Securing the help of a criminal defense attorney in an effort to correct the problem will be looked upon favorably by judges and prosecutors, no matter how long it has been since your scheduled date to appear. Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer Elena Mebtahi has the experience and skill to help minimize the consequences of a failure to appear, and if a bench warrant has been issued, she can explain the circumstances of your situation and argue to have the bench warrant lifted.

What is a Failure to Appear?

Failure to appear is a legal term that applies to a person who has failed to appear in court on a scheduled date and time for a pending legal action, such as a criminal case, civil case, traffic court, payment of a fine, or arraignment. Failure to appear is a crime in itself. When a person fails to appear for a pending proceeding, a bench warrant may be issued in his or her name. A bench warrant is issued by the judge and is similar to an arrest warrant. A bench warrant differs from an arrest warrant in that law enforcement officials normally do not actively seek out the offender. However, police routinely check for warrants during traffic stops and if a warrant is found, in addition to issuing a traffic ticket, law enforcement officials have the right to arrest the person immediately.

A bench warrant is most commonly issued in the following circumstances:

• when a person fails to appear in court for an arraignment
• when a person fails to appear in court after being issued a citation
• when a person fails to appear in court for sentencing in a criminal matter
• when a person fails to pay a fine

Penalties for a Failure to Appear

The penalties for failure to appear depend upon whether the court date missed related to a misdemeanor charge or a felony charge. A defendant may be convicted for a failure to appear even if the underlying misdemeanor or felony charge is dropped. California law provides the following:

Misdemeanor charge: If a person willfully fails to appear on a scheduled court date in a misdemeanor case, the prosecution will additionally charge the offender with a failure to appear as a misdemeanor. Penalties for this offense include a sentence of up to six months in the county jail, fines up to $1,000, and a potential suspended driver’s license.

Felony charge: If a person willfully fails to appear for court proceedings related to a felony charge, the prosecution will additionally charge the accused with a failure to appear as a felony. Punishment for this offense can be severe, including up to one year in state prison and fines up to $5,000.

In both of these charges, a person has a 14-day grace period to show up to court before it is presumed that the person is evading the court process. After 14 days, a bench warrant is issued and charges of failure to appear can be filed. In order to convict, the prosecutor must prove that the person intended to evade the process of the court.

Failure to Appear Defense Attorney

Failure to appear at a scheduled court proceeding is a crime with potentially serious consequences. Having an experienced defense lawyer on your side will prevent a failure to appear charge from ever being filed against you. At the Law Offices of Elena Mebtahi, our experienced California criminal defense attorneys will represent you at all court hearings and prevent such additional complications in your case. If you have already failed to show up for court and are unsure of what to do, contact Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer Elena Mebtahi immediately. We will help you through your legal problems and minimize the impact on your life. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.