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How to Clear Up Failure to Appear in California for Traffic

by Mark Nero

In California, when a motorist fails to appear for a scheduled court hearing on a traffic violation, then that motorist is subject to a number of penalties, including a fine, suspension of their driver's license and having an arrest warrant issued against them. The way to clear up a failure to appear case is to speak with a judge at the court where the case was issued and explain to the judge why the failure occurred.

Get your story straight and put together the case that you're going to plead before the judge. Gather any paperwork that might help your cause. If your failure to appear was due to circumstances beyond your control, like a severe illness or a delayed flight, get written proof to provide to the judge. Or, if your failure to appear was due an avoidable circumstance, like you forgot or simply decided not to go, write a letter of apology to the court to take with you when you appear before a judge.

Go to the Superior Court branch where the failure to appear was issued and speak with the court clerk. You don't need an appointment; just arrive the first thing in the morning and explain that you want to clear up a failure to appear and the clerk will assign you to a courtroom and receive any paperwork you may have. Give the clerk the original paperwork, but keep copies for your records. Proceed to the assigned courtroom and wait until your name is called.

Plead your case before the judge when you have the chance. Explain the circumstances behind the failure to appear, apologize and ask the judge for leniency. If you gave any paperwork to the clerk, it will have been passed on to the judge and reviewed by him before you have a chance to speak, so refer to the evidence in it as you need to as you're pleading your case.

Accept any resolution the judge mandates and comply with his orders. After you plead your case, the judge will decide what your punishment will be. Depending on the jurisdiction, it's unlikely you will receive jail time since you turned yourself in, but this is not a certainty. Whatever the judge rules, make sure you completely understand; ask questions if you need to. Then fully and completely follow his instructions, which might include paying fines or another form of restitution.

About the Author

Mark Nero has been a professional journalist since 1995 and has written for numerous publications within and outside the U.S. His work has appeared in "The Boston Globe," "San Diego Union-Tribune" and "Los Angeles Daily News" among others. Nero studied communications at San Diego State University.

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