Warrant for Failure to Complete Community Service? Solve the Problem Voluntarily.



Many first time misdemeanor convictions, such as driving on a suspended license or Driving Under the Influence (DUI / DWI) offenses, result in sentences that include probation, with a required term of “community service”, or “sheriff’s Work Program” in place of actual county jail time.

Obviously, some people have difficulty in completing the community service programs or a Sheriff’s Work Program on time.  Sometimes the Sheriffs are unreasonable and boot you out of the freeway shoulder project unfairly. Jobs, children, the lack of a drivers license, and other problems, can get in the way. It happens a lot.

Typically, when a misdemeanor defendant does not complete a term of their sentence or probation on time (such as community service), the court will: 1) revoke probation; 2) issue a warrant with a set bail amount; and 3) add a probation violation charge to the case.

Sounds really, really bad, right? Well it is if you have this problem and ignore it until the police catch you.

However, there is a right way to solve the problem that reduces the likelihood of a long jail sentence. The court can recall a warrant upon request once the Defendant appears in court in person, voluntarily. Some warrants can be recalled without the client having to go to court at all if the Defendant hires a private Attorney to go to court for them. Sometimes a warrant can be recalled without payment of bail, and without any jail time.

And the court has the power to “Reinstate Probation” and give a defendant a new deadline, a second chance.

Defendants charged with a probation violation have a right to hearing to prove it up. But for misdemeanor defendants who simply did not complete Community Service on time, a hearing is rarely a good idea. The trick is to make a court appearance somehow before the police arrest you, convince the court you are taking care of it correctly, and ask for a second chance.


The process of clearing up a probation violation warrant boils down to making a court appearance and requesting a second chance – a new deadline to complete the community service. In most cases, the procedure is known as a “motion to reinstate probation”, and can be done orally or in writing.  But it does require a court appearance, which can be done in a couple of different ways.

The best way by far to solve a misdemeanor warrant problem with a probation violation is to hire a private defense Attorney to: 1) get the case on the court’s calendar; 2) make a request to recall the warrant (or reduce bail); and 3) request reinstatement of probation.

In most cases, a defendant with a misdemeanor traffic warrant can have their case added on to a court’s calendar on a walk in basis on their own. After all – that is what a warrant really is. It is an order for a person to come to court, by force if necessary.

At most CA Criminal Courts, getting a case “on calendar” – as they say – can be done by checking in with the court clerks office as soon as the court opens in the morning. 8 am is a good time to be there. The “Criminal Court Clerk” is the department responsible for scheduling court appearances – just let them know you have a warrant and you are there to make a court appearance.

(Side note: you really dont want to be the first case heard in the morning for a probation violation. general rule is first guy goes to jail in the morning to scare the others)

From the Clerks Office, a couple of different things can happen depending on the case. The Court Clerk may send you right into court. They might tell you to go talk to the Sheriff’s Department and get arrested first (Sacramento). They may tell you that you have to post bail first. They may set a court date for you and tell you to come back later. They may tell you to wait a minute, and then 2 officers will come up behind you and cuff you.

But no matter which of these happen, if you reach this stage, you are actually doing the right thing. The stress and pain is on its way out.

Once a case is called by the Judge in Court, a defendant in this situation without a Defense Attorney can request more time to complete the community service, and ask for reinstatement of probation.

The advantage is having an Attorney is that the Lawyer can do this work for you, and can actually try to get it done without you first.

Of course, not everyone gets a second chance after a probation violation. Some people get a fourth chance, some people do not get a second chance. That is the way it is.

From a former car selling Defense Attorney’s perspective, it’s all about persuasion. You have to sell a good result to the judge somehow. “The best actor makes the most money, and the best actor knows their lines.”

If jail time is required, it is possible to request weekend only service, or a surrender date in the future. Point out to the judge you are not one of those losers in the red suits who waited too long! You are making a good faith effort to do the right thing.

No matter which way you choose to solve the problem, you should not wait. Every day that goes by on a warrant case makes it harder to get a no jail result. And some judges will actually count the number of days a Defendant lets a warrant sit to calculate the jail sentence.

Any problem involving a warrant can get worse fast. A person with a warrant is subject to arrest at any time, and once arrested, stands little chance of getting a good result in the case.

And aside from that, a pending warrant will cause many quality employers to terminate an employee or reject a new job applicant, and there is nothing that can be done about it once it happens.

We offer Free Attorney Case Reviews for misdemeanor warrant cases.

Many warrant cases can be resolved by a Defense Attorney without the client having to go to court or make an office visit.

Questions? Leave a comment.


About Attorney Christopher Dort

Public Interest Attorney. CA State Bar #196832. Licensed to practice law in California 1998, and then the US Federal District Court in 2000. Civil Litigation Trial Attorney (Insurance Defense Firms) 2000-2003. Private practice 2003 - present. First Solo Criminal Jury Trial 1998 (Santa Cruz County). First Civil Jury Trial 2002 (Orange County). Santa Cruz County Public Defenders Office 1996-1999 (law clerk). BA in Politics from UC Santa Cruz, 1995. JD, University of California, Hastings, 1998.
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