New California Penal Code 1214.1 PC Law
California has enacted a new law to collect penalty fines for defendants who fail to appear in criminal court as ordered. The new law is found at California penal code section 1214.1 PC.
Per PC 1214.1, if the defendant fails to appear in criminal court as ordered, then the defendant may face up to a $100 penalty fine. This fine is in addition to any other legal consequences for failing to appear, such as the consequences under PC 1320 (failure to appear on written notice after release on own recognizance), and PC 1320.5 (failure to appear as a condition of bail).
PC 1214.1 v. PC 1320 & PC 1320.5
PC 1214.1 deals with monetary penalty fines only. PC 1320 on the other hand deals with actual criminal conduct (failure to appear on written notice after release on own recognizance).
Per PC 1320, if the defendant fails to appear in criminal court as ordered, he or she may face additional criminal charges. These additional criminal charges may be classified as either a misdemeanor, or alternatively as a felony, depending on what type of crime for which the defendant failed to appear in criminal court.
Per PC 1320.5, if the defendant fails to appear in court after release on bail, then the defendant may face additional criminal charges and have his or her bail forfeited. The additional criminal charges may be either misdemeanor criminal charges or felony criminal charges, depending on whether the defendant failed to appear after release on bail on the underlying criminal case for misdemeanor or felony charges.
Examples: Defendant is charged with misdemeanor vandalism under Penal Code 594. Defendant is released on his own recognizance by the citing officer (citation to appear in criminal court). Defendant decides not to go to court for his arraignment (first court appearance). Thereafter, the judge levies a fine against the defendant in the amount of $100 pursuant to penal code 1214.1 for defendant’s failure to appear in criminal court as ordered. This PC 1214.1 fine is in addition to the district attorney adding PC 1320 criminal charges against the defendant (See PC 1320 above).
Example II: Defendant is charged with obtain public aid by misrepresentation (welfare fraud) under WI 10980(c)(2). Defendant bails out of jail before her arraignment in criminal court (first appearance). On the day set for the defendant’s arraignment, she decides not to go to court. Thereafter, the criminal court judge levies a PC 1214.1 monetary penalty against the defendant. This PC 1214.1 fine is in addition to the defendant’s bail being revoked, and in addition to new criminal charges filed against the defendant pursuant to PC 1320.5 (See PC 1320.5 above).
Scope of PC 1214.1
California’s new penal code 1214.1 law applies equally to all infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. For example (and theoretically), a defendant who is charged with felony murder in the first degree, and who does not appear for court as ordered, may be issued the same PC 1214.1 $100 dollar fine for failure to appear as a defendant who does not appear for court on his driving without a license charge (an infraction). Of course, in practice, this is never going to happen because PC 1214.1(c) forbids both a fine and a warrant for the defendant's arrest, and the court is never going to opt for a fine over a warrant in a murder case where the defendant failed to appear for court.
Vehicle Code Violations: PC 1214.1 may be applied to vehicle code offenses when the defendant fails to appear in criminal court, such as when the defendant is charged with driving with a suspended license, DUI, evading police, etc.
However, when the defendant fails to appear in court, as ordered, after alleged misdemeanor vehicle code violations, either after release on his own recognizance, or after release on bail, the district attorney will usually charge failure to appear criminal charges under the Vehicle Code Section 40508 VC.
Per VC 40508, failure to appear for criminal court on driving crimes allegations can lead to a one-year jail sentence and suspension of the defendant’s driving privileges. This is in addition to the penalties enumerated for the crime for which the defendant did not appear in court.
For example, if the defendant is charged with a driving under the influence of alcohol (VC 23152), and the defendant fails to appear in court after release on his own recognizance, then the judge may order a PC 1214.1 monetary fine or issue a warrant for the defendant’s arrest (not both), and the district attorney may charge the defendant with a VC 40508 violation. Once the defendant is brought to court, the defendant will face penalties for both the DUI charge and the VC 40508 allegations.
Note: Pursuant to PC 1214.1(c), the judge may issue a monetary penalty, or issue a bench warrant for the failure to appear (FTA), but the judge may not do both (PC 1214.1(c)). In practice, a judge will opt for a PC 1214.1 fine over a warrant in a failure to appear in court on a misdemeanor or felony allegation. This PC 1214.1 option, over a warrant for the defendant’s arrest, will likely be seen only in non-driving infraction cases where the defendant is facing additional civil penalties for the underlying offense.
PC 1214.1 Defense
To prove that the defendant is guilty of penal code 1214.1, the district attorney must prove that the defendant willfully failed to appear in court after proper notice was given to the defendant.
In other words, the district attorney must prove to the court that the defendant was legally ordered to appear (i.e., proper citation, proper order, etc.), and that the defendant knew of the order and failed to appear without good cause. Good cause for failure to appear can be shown by emergency, illness, natural disaster, duress, or other good reason why the defendant could not appear in court as ordered.
Note: A defendant facing a PC 1214.1, PC 1320, PC 1320.5, or VC 40508 violation should contact a criminal defense attorney without delay and before attempting to demonstrate good cause for failure to appear to a criminal court judge. Remember, failure to appear in criminal court as ordered is not only a PC 1214.1 violation, but the defendant could also face additional misdemeanor or criminal charges under PC 1320, PC 1320.5, and VC 40508.
PC 1214.1 Fine Waiver
In some cases, the judge may waive the PC 1214.1 monetary penalty depending on the circumstances of the case, the defendant’s ability to pay the fine, and the defendant’s reason(s) for failing to appear as ordered.
What do I do if I miss my court date?
If the defendant misses his court date, regardless of the reason, the defendant should contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. In some cases, especially where the defendant reappears for court with his attorney very soon after the missed court date, the criminal defense attorney can convince the judge and/or the district attorney dismiss the PC 1214.1 fine (or recall the defendant’s warrant for his arrest if a warrant was issued), and dismiss any PC 1320, PC 1320.5, or VC 40805 allegations (See above).
For example, the defendant is charged with willful endangerment to a child (PC 273a(a)). Defendant is released on bail at her arraignment (first court appearance). However, the defendant fails to appear (FTA) for her felony settlement conference (the subsequent criminal court hearing). Thereafter, the criminal court judge issues a warrant for the defendant’s arrest and declares the defendant’s bail forfeited. Defendant has no valid reason for her missed court date, she simply wrote down the wrong date for her next court appearance. Defendant, as soon as she realizes her mistake, retains a criminal defense attorney. The defendant and the criminal defense attorney set a non-scheduled court hearing (walk-in) for the defendant’s surrender to the court. After hearing the defendant’s honest reason for missing her court date, the defense attorney convinces the judge that the defendant’s warrant should be recalled (voided), and the defendant’s bail reinstated.
Note: Every criminal case is different; therefore, the facts that support a warrant recall or dismissal of any PC 1214.1, PC 1320, PC 1320.5, or VC 40508 allegation, vary from case to case. There is never a guarantee that a judge will submit to the defendant’s request in any case, but the defendant stands a much greater chance with the use of an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows what arguments can and should be made at these criminal hearings.
Note: If the defendant appears in criminal court, after failing to appear as ordered, within twenty (20) days of his ordered court date, then defendant is entitled to have his PC 1214.1 fine vacated (PC 1214.1(b) Abbrev.).
FTA, PC 1214.1, & Diversion
When the defendant is granted diversion in a criminal case, and the defendant fails to appear in court as ordered (for regular diversion progress reports), the defendant may face any of the penalties related to PC 1214.1, PC 1320, PC 1320, or VC 40508 (See related penalties above), and the defendant may be in violation of diversion requirements. In other words, the defendant could be expelled from the diversion program and criminal proceedings may be reinstated against the defendant. For more information, see Diversion in Criminal Court.
PC 1214.1 Legal Language
PC 1214.1(a): On or after July 1, 2022, in addition to any other penalty in infraction, misdemeanor, or felony cases, the court may impose a civil assessment of up to one hundred dollars ($100) against a defendant who fails, after notice and without good cause, to appear in court for a proceeding authorized by law or who fails to pay all or any portion of a fine ordered by the court or to pay an installment of bail as agreed to under Section 40510.5 of the Vehicle Code. This assessment shall be deposited with the county treasurer as provided in Section 1463.001 and transmitted to the State Treasurer for deposit into the General Fund.
PC 1214.1(b)(1): The assessment imposed pursuant to subdivision (a) shall not become effective until at least 20 calendar days after the court mails a warning notice to the defendant by first-class mail to the address shown on the notice to appear or to the defendant’s last known address. If the defendant appears within the time specified in the notice and shows good cause for the failure to appear or for the failure to pay a fine or installment of bail, the court shall vacate the assessment.
PC 1214.1(c): If a civil assessment is imposed pursuant to subdivision (a), no bench warrant or warrant of arrest shall be issued with respect to the failure to appear at the proceeding for which the assessment is imposed or the failure to pay the fine or installment of bail. An outstanding, unserved bench warrant or warrant of arrest for a failure to appear or for a failure to pay a fine or installment of bail shall be recalled prior to the subsequent imposition of a civil assessment.
If you or a loved one is charged with failure to appear in court (FTA), either as a civil assessment (PC 1214.1), or as a criminal allegation (PC 1320, PC 1320.5, & VC 40508), contact our criminal defense lawyers without delay. Our team of defense attorneys have successfully handled hundreds of misdemeanor and felony criminal charges in the Inland Empire, including the cities of Riverside, San Bernadino, Rialto, Redlands, Fontana, Rancho Cucamonga, Victorville, Upland, Ontario, Moreno Valley, Yucaipa, and more. We offer free consultations, and our attorneys are available seven days a week to answer your questions. Call today!