A failure to appear in traffic court may seem like a relatively harmless thing to happen, but it can turn in to a nightmare pretty quickly if you don’t act fast to remedy the situation.
Confused as to Why You Have a Failure to Appear in the First Place?
As a Los Angeles traffic ticket attorney, I get several calls a day from people like yourself who have failed to appear in court.
Many of my clients were genuinely surprised they had failed to appear in court, for one of several reasons:
- They were waiting for a courtesy notice. Courtesy notices reminding you of your court date are usually not sent anymore in Los Angeles County, due to budget cuts. The actual citation you received at the time of the ticket will have the time, date, and address of the courthouse you are supposed to appear in. If you lose your ticket and don’t take initiative to find your court date online, this usually will result in a failure to appear.
- They were given a correctable violation (a “fix-it ticket”). Driving with expired tags is an example of a correctable violation, or fix-it ticket. The confusion surrounding correctable violations is that once you get the issue fixed, you still have to notify the court that you fixed the issue. Many believe that once they fix the issue, that is all that’s required. WRONG! If you do not appear in court and show the judge the issue has been remedied, you’ll receive a failure to appear in court.
- Inadvertence. Hey, life happens. Many of my clients get a failure to appear because they got busy, moved away, or simply forgot about it.
Whatever your reason for your failure to appear, it’s important to fix the situation soon before it turns into a bigger mess.
How a Failure to Appear in Traffic Court Will Affect You
Your Case Will be Referred to GC Services
GC Services is a collections agency that collects on unpaid traffic tickets for all tickets in the Los Angeles Superior Court.
When you get a failure to appear in Los Angeles County, your ticket will be referred to GC Services, who may try to call you or send you threatening letters claiming they will suspend your license if you do not pay them.
Be aware that you do not have to pay GC Services in Los Angeles County in the case where:
- you have a failure to appear, rather than a failure to pay (a failure to pay means you’ve already seen the judge in court, whereas a failure to appear means you’ve never been to court on your case); and
- you have not already made a payment to GC Services under the amnesty program.
GC Services will threaten to suspend your license if you do not pay them. However, they don’t have the power to suspend your license, only the DMV does.
Further, if your ticket is older than 5 years old, it won’t even be holding your license anymore, although, GC Services will still try to collect on it and will still tell you they’ll suspend your license.
If you have a failure to appear and your ticket is not yet 5 years old, then the DMV will put a hold on your driver’s license.
But you can still fight the ticket in court and clear the hold from your driver’s license so you can get your driver’s license back, without paying GC Services.
It’s better to fight the ticket in court than to pay GC Services, because when you pay GC Services:
- you’ll get a misdemeanor on your criminal record for failure to appear;
- you’ll pay 4-6 times the original amount of the ticket; and
- you’ll get a point on your DMV record in the case where the traffic ticket was a moving violation (getting a point on your DMV record usually causes your insurance rates to go up).
You can avoid most, if not all, of these negative consequences when you fight the ticket in court, or hire a lawyer to do so on your behalf.
A Failure to Appear May Result in a Bench Warrant
Sometimes, instead of your case being referred to GC Services, a failure to appear will cause the court to issue a bench warrant.
A bench warrant is a warrant issued by the judge because you missed your court date. A bench warrant can cause problems for you if you get pulled over by an officer, who then discovers the warrant, because the officer can impound your car.
Further, a bench warrant may prevent you from traveling by plane either interstate or internationally.
A bench warrant will also usually result in the DMV putting a hold on your driver’s license.
Driving with a Suspended License
As mentioned above, a failure to appear in court causes the DMV to put a “hold” on your driver’s license.
When a hold is placed on your license, the DMV will send you a letter in the mail explaining your license will be suspended if you don’t do anything to remedy the traffic ticket you failed to appear on.
You have a brief window of time before the driver’s license hold turns into a suspension. You don’t want the hold to turn into a suspension for two reasons:
- a suspension on your DMV record can cause your insurance rates to jump up, and also may prevent an employer from hiring you (or may result in your employer terminating you), depending on your type of employment; and
- if your license is suspended, and you are caught driving, you will likely be charged with driving with a suspended license.
If your license is already suspended, you can still remedy the issue by fighting your traffic ticket in court. Once the hold is cleared in traffic court, you can then go to DMV and pay the $55 reinstatement fee to get your license reinstated.
Get Help with Your Failure to Appear
As a Los Angeles traffic ticket attorney, I’ve dealt extensively (i.e. thousands of cases) where my clients have been charged with failure to appear.
I know what your rights are, what your options are, and how to help you get the best results on your case.
For help, you can call me (Attorney Paul Denni) for a free consultation at 888-250-8450. If you’d like me to contact you, please fill out the contact form below.