An FTA charge, also known as a failure to appear, is a charge added to your traffic ticket case when you fail to appear in traffic court. Vehicle Code 40508 is the legal basis for a failure to appear.
What are the Consequences of an FTA Charge?
Bench Warrant or GC Services
In Los Angeles County, when you fail to appear in traffic court, you’ll either:
- be issued a bench warrant, or
- your case will be sent to GC Services for collections.
Hold on Your Driver’s License
In either case, a hold will be placed on your driver’s license, rendering your license invalid until you clear the hold from your license.
There are two ways to clear the hold from your driver’s license:
- pay the traffic ticket, or
- fight the ticket in traffic court.
As a traffic ticket attorney with years of experience fighting traffic tickets in Los Angeles County on behalf of my clients, I always recommend fighting the ticket in court, as long as you have that option.
You always have the option to see the judge on an FTA charge, as opposed to a failure to pay (or FTP). An FTP means you’ve already seen the judge and your case has been adjudicated already. In the case of an FTP (also known as “matters set for compliance”), your only option to clear the hold on your driver’s license is to pay the traffic ticket to GC Services.
The Dangers of Paying GC Services
But don’t pay GC Services on an FTA charge, because by doing so you are pleading guilty to the ticket and will be convicted of the failure to appear as well as the underlying traffic ticket. This means the failure to appear may go on your criminal record and appear in a background check, and you may get points on your DMV record, causing your insurance rates to go up.
GC Services won’t tell you this when they are trying to collect your money. The only thing they’ll tell you, is: “Pay us, and we’ll clear the hold from your license.” This is only partially true – they are supposed to clear the hold from your license once you pay them, but I get many calls from people who paid GC Services, but once their money is spent GC Services fails to clear the hold as they are supposed to do.
The effect is for you to have spent money to pay off a traffic ticket and you’re still in the same position you are started off in: trying to get your license valid.
Potential Driving with Suspended License Charge and Impound of Your Car
The danger in driving when your license is suspended is if you get pulled over for an unrelated issue, such as speeding, the officer will run your license, see that it’s suspended, and can potentially charge you with a driving with a suspended license offense.
In addition, an officer has the authority to impound your vehicle if you’re driving with a suspended license.
Best Course of Action on an FTA Charge
The best thing you can do when you have a traffic ticket with an FTA charge is put the ticket back in front of a judge. When you fight the ticket in traffic court, you have an opportunity to:
- clear the hold from your driver’s license,
- get the FTA charge and underlying traffic ticket dismissed entirely, and/ or
- get the FTA charge reduced to an infraction so it stays off of your criminal record.
As your traffic ticket attorney, I can handle the entire matter in court for you, without the need for you to be present in court whatsoever.
Are There Any Defenses to an FTA Charge?
There are three legal defenses to an FTA charge:
- you were in the hospital, or
- you were in the military, or
- you were incarcerated (in jail or prison),
on the day you were supposed to appear in court. Many Los Angeles judges will still dismiss the FTA charge if you have other pressing circumstances, such as: although none of the legal excuses for failure to appear applied to you, they applied to a close loved one of yours which required your absence from court.
In the worse case scenario, the FTA charge will be reduced from a misdemeanor to an infraction so it will stay off of your criminal record. Many judges will also reduce your FTA fines as a courtesy in the case where you don’t have a legal defense, but missed your court date due to mere inadvertence.
Get Help in Traffic Court with Your FTA Charge
My name is Attorney Paul Denni, and I’ve handled thousands of tickets in the Los Angeles courts where my clients failed to appear. Don’t feel like you’re the only one! It is much more common than you think, largely because it can be confusing what to do with a traffic ticket once you receive it.
If you’d like help, please contact me for a free consultation here: