When you sign a citation after a traffic violation you are promising to appear in court on the date the officer places on the citation. Many people don’t read the bottom portion of the citation when they officer tells them to sign and they’ll be on their way. In fact, if you sign the citation promising to appear and you don’t make your appearance, the court will issue a warrant for your arrest. A traffic citation is usually an infraction punishable by only a fine. However, if you fail to show up when your case is set your infraction will escalate into a misdemeanor failure to appear, punishable by an additional fine and jail time.
If you are arrested on a misdemeanor and you fail to appear on the date given you when you were released from jail, several things will happen. An additional charge of failing to appear will be filed as a misdemeanor. The amount of your bail will be forfeited. If you posted cash bail, the cash will be forfeited to the Court. If you posted a bail bond the bond will be forfeited and the bail bond company will try to take any property you used for collateral on your bond. If your bond was issued with just a signature and there wasn’t any property used as collateral the bail company will go after the assets of the person who agreed to be responsible for your coming to court.
Finally, if you have been released either on a written promise to appear or on bail on a felony, more bad things will happen should you not show up in court. First, all the same things happen as with a misdemeanor (forfeiture) but an additional penalty occurs. A new and additional felony charge of failing to appear will be filed. This new felony is punishable by a State Prison sentence of up to three (3) years.
Clearly, when someone is given a date to appear in court, it is only smart to appear on the date set and on time. Multiple new and additional charges and punishments may be imposed if a timely appearance isn’t made. In spite of all of the above, the best criminal defense attorneys can successfully have the above sanctions set aside or eliminated. There isn’t any substitute for hiring the best criminal defense you can get.