Was Your “40508a vc” Failure to Appear a Misdemeanor or an Infraction? Make Sure You Get a Clear Record.

Some traffic court violations always start out in court as a Misdemeanor charge, but can be reduced to infractions by the court.

In many California failure to appear cases on traffic tickets involving Vehicle Code sec. 40508(a), which is also known as “40508a vc” on traffic tickets, it is not clear to defendants whether they are charged with a “Misdemeanor”, or the less serious “Infraction” version of a failure to appear violation. And that can be a problem when it is time to enter a plea.

Sometimes, after the case is over, the Department of Motor Vehicles will get it wrong, and list the case as a misdemeanor conviction on a driver’s history report, when in fact it was not a misdemeanor. Maybe it was treated as an infraction by the court, even though the statute says it is a misdemeanor, and the DMV got it wrong? How can you know for sure?

Getting a clear record of a case from the court when a 40508a vc case ends can protect a driver from this messy problem.

The details of the problem are these:

There is a big difference between a Misdemeanor Conviction and Infraction Violation. Misdemeanors, including Vehicle Code section 40508(a) are real crimes that have a maximum penalty of up to 6 mos or one year in the county jail. Misdemeanors show up on background and criminal records checks as criminal convictions.

Infractions are much less serious. They are not considered crimes, and carry only a fine as the maximum sentence. They do not appear on criminal records / pre employment screenings. You do not have a right to a jury trial on an infraction, and the court will not appoint the public defender to help you.

Some Vehicle Code violations, such as a failure to appear in court (Vehicle Code section 40508a), and driving without a valid license (Vehicle Code section 12500a) always start out as a misdemeanor charge, but can be reduced to an infraction by the court when a defendant pleads guilty or no contest.

Many traffic court commissioners and judges will routinely reduce a failure to appear charge under 40508a from a misdemeanor to an infraction if a defendant shows up in court voluntarily and resolves their case efficiently but pleading guilty or no contest. But they may not make it clear to you or clear on the record unless you ask.

When a misdemeanor failure to appear charge is reduced to an infraction by a traffic court, the penalty is generally a simple fine. The court’s record of the case is changed from a pending case with a Vehicle Code section 40508a Misdemeanor charge, to list a conviction of a Vehicle Code section 40508a “Infraction”. The case number and the vehicle code violation number (the statute) are the same. On a DMV record, both may show up as 40508a vc violations. But the classification is very different..

If a driver does not have proof that the court reduced the misdemeanor to an infraction after a case ends, getting a misdemeanor conviction removed from DMV records can be a nightmare.

But if the driver gets a clear record of the conviction on a court abstract at the time the case ends, or proof it was dismissed, the problem can be cleared quickly. All the driver has to do is take the court abstract to a DMV office.

Unfortunately, a common and serious mistake made by people in traffic court is that they fail to clarify whether or not they are being convicted of an infraction or a misdemeanor while in court.

So here is our Newest Traffic Court Self Help Tip: If you are going to court on a failure to appear charge, get a clear record of the violations you are convicted of when the case is over. Keep copies of the paperwork in a safe place.

If you are not sure if you are being convicted of an infraction or a misdemeanor, ask the judge to clarify it. Ask for a final “minute order” from the court clerk. It’s your right to know for certain. Get proof and check to make sure DMV and others have it right!

Contact the DMV Driver Safety Office near you for details on what they have listed on your record.

Questions – leave a reply below. We try to answer them all.

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.
This entry was posted in California Legal Help, Free Legal Self Help, Going to Court, Los Angeles County, Missed Court Dates, Orange County, Riverside County, Suspended Drivers License, Vehicle Code and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

49 Responses to Was Your “40508a vc” Failure to Appear a Misdemeanor or an Infraction? Make Sure You Get a Clear Record.

  1. Shawn King says:


    I am 23 and I live in Atlanta GA (Fulton County). In 2011 I was pulled over for not stopping at a stop sign and also my registration was not up to date. I missed my court date and obviously received a Failure to Appear and my license was suspended. My licenses has been suspended ever since and I am now at a place in my life where I can afford to pay the fees to have it renewed. I would like to know what will happen when I go to court because it has been a total of 3 years since and Im nervous that there will be severe consequences because it has been so long?

    Thank You,


  2. james a saccotelli says:

    I live in washington state and
    need to know what to do, I had a dui in 2010, went to court, and stayed on house monitor on for 6 months, got off it and then two months later was told that I had to appear in court for a dirty ua , i had lost my job and had no way to pay the fine either, anyway, I had a lithumin induced attack 2 hours before my court appearance, and round up being taken by ambulance to the hospital three days later I had a stroke and was vac to va hospital in seattle, this was 2011,my wife tried to explain to the courts what had happened, but they put out a bench warrant anyway, now 3 years later I am trying to figure out what to do, and what will happen to me now, I am 62 on tons of medication and major physical problems too, also I did not know about the bench warrant until I spoke to an officer in feb of this year, i would have taken care of it then but I had to go in for major surgery at the time. any advice? should I write to the courts and request that the bench warrant be vacated or what?

    • If this were California, I would tell you to go to court at 8am tomorrow morning. Tell the court clerk you are there to take care of a warrant problem.

      I don’t think you need to pack a toothbrush, but make sure you tell someone where you are going. Don’t park in a metered space.

  3. Al says:


    I received a handheld device ticket in March of 2012 in Los Angeles. I extended the ticket, which I had the full intention of paying, until July or so. In June I moved to DC after graduating from college and forgot to pay the ticket. Sometime in August, a former roommate alerted me that a letter had been sent saying my license was suspended. I went online immediately and my ticket was now $500+, from $150 or so. I returned to CA and paid it in October (I got a new job in LA) and the amount jumped form $500 to $800+ and my license was reinstated (I went to the DMV to check). I never went to court or anything.

    I pulled up my Driving record recently and had code 40508a vc conviction, but further down, in Failure to Appear: there is an asterisked None*.

    Do I have a misdemeanor on my record?

    • Alfonso,

      DMV records and criminal court records are not the same thing. Dont assume they show the same thing. If you have no idea what you were convicted of in court, contact the court clerk to find out.

      What your DMV record was probably says was: “No active failure to appear cases” (but I do not know for sure).

  4. Keith says:


    Tickets: (all except first in Orange County)
    1. Apr 2008 – 23136 – License suspended 1 year, reissued 2009 (Sonoma County)
    2. Sep 2011 – VC4000a1 – No registration – Infraction
    3. Jan 2012 – VC4000a1, 16028a, 12500a – No lic/reg/ins – 2 infr. and 1 misd.
    4. Jan 2013 – VC4000a1 NP – No reg – Infraction

    After the 23136 (minor drinking and driving, BAC under .05) I was required to maintain an SR-22 through 2012. I had some tumultuous economic circumstances for a few years and if I missed an insurance payment they’d suspend coverage, notify DMV, DMV would suspend my license, then I’d pay the insurance and DMV would automatically reinstate. This probably happened half a dozen times in two years for a combined total of less than 30 days.

    On to the situation at hand:

    Got the ticket in ’11 and didn’t pay it. It went to collections. After the ticket in ’12, I got my insurance in order, went to DMV (in feb) and asked to pay everything outstanding. Paid over $1k, including registration and license reissue. DMV said I was good to go and my license showed as current on DMV database.

    When I got the ticket in ’13, I was still in a poor financial situation. I assumed, based on past experience, that I could put it off and pay it a bit later. Of course that’s not ideal, but I was broke. Come May ’13, I get a letter that says my license will be suspended if I don’t pay the reg ticket from Jan. I call to pay it and DMV says they can’t take payment, contact OC court. Girl at OC court refuses to answer questions, says I have a warrant ($1500 bail) and I need to appear before 8am to see the judge.

    I can see on DMV website that the warrant is for the 12500a (no license). There was a hearing, but I never saw anything requiring me to attend. I realize that “I never got your letter” is not a valid excuse.

    1. Can I plead guilty, pay the $1500 and go on my way?
    2. Should I expect to pay more than just the $1500? Any chance of a payment plan?
    3. Will they arrest me the minute I give my name, even though I’m there to clear up the case? I would presume that once I presented myself I wouldn’t be allowed to leave without settling the matter.
    4. My #1 concern is staying out of jail. What is the likelihood of this?

    Sorry for the long posting, I tried my best to include the pertinent details and I’d really appreciate an answer.

    • Keith,

      I cant answer all your questions. But this is a good comment. I can tell you something super important.

      If you have pending court cases, you must deal with them at the court. Not at DMV. You cannot pay a traffic fine in CA at DMV. You cannot end a pending court case in CA at DMV. Never.

      You can pay a PARKING ticket at DMV, or reinstate suspended registration for a vehicle at DMV, but you cannot end a court case at DMV. Dont try it. It wont work.

      THe next tip I have is that you should not trust what DMV tells you about a court case. THe DMV “Docket Numbers” that appear on driver history reports do not match real court docket numbers.

      If you have reason to believe you have pending court cases because DMV tells you that you have a court hold on your drivers license (Vehicle COde 405095.5 hold) then you need to get the address of the courthouse from DMV and go there to deal with the problem.

      If you have a pending warrant, it is because there is something wrong with a COURT CASE, not a problem at the DMV.

      If you have a pending warrant, one or more court appearances are going to be required. You may be able to hire an attorney like me to go to court for you and resolve the case, but I cannot tell from the info you gave.

      Any time you have a pending warrant, it means jail time is a possible outcome.

      I cannot tell you what will happen if you plead guilty to what ever charges come with that warrant case. You dont even know the charges on that case yet. If you go in voluntarily in an orange county courthouse to take care of a simple misdemeanor warrant with a $1500 bail, they may not arrest you on the spot. That is a really low bail setting for a warrant. But they can, and some counties will send you straight to the sheriff’s office before you can have a court date on a warrant case.

      That is why it is better to hire an attorney to deal with a warrant case. You may not have to go at all and worry about being arrested suddenly.

      You need more info on the case with a warrant. In Orange County, (unlike Santa Clara County and unlike Alameda County) you can get free access to the case details on the court’s web site.

  5. Jodi says:

    I got a DUI, back in June, 2006, in Cali…but right after I had to move to NY for work before my date in Court, so obviously I recieved a Failure to Appear. Its been 6 years plus now, and Im moving back to California now. What should I do in order to get a Cali DL again?

    • Joey,

      In California, a Driving Under the Influence case has 2 independent components: 1) the court action; and 2) the Department of Motor Vehicles action against the driver’s license of the arrestee.

      So it sounds like you have 2 problems here: 1) you’re going to jail on the court case, and 2) you want a drivers license in CA.

      I cannot tell what the status of your drivers license in CA is from your description. I can tell that there is almost certain a warrant out for your arrest. Depending on the county, your bail is probably set at $25,000. Maybe lower if you’re lucky.

      Sounds like you skipped out prior to a conviction. Did you skip out on bail in that instance – or were you released prior to having to post bail? Why does it matter? I’m just wondering if the Dog Bounty Hunter is looking for you. Good thing you didn’t use your real full name.

      Back to the arrest warrant….

      Crap! You did use your full real name. Hold on, I have to go back and edit your comment to protect yourself from yourself – because you just admitted to being a fugitive from justice with your full name.

      6 years as a fugitive?

      Sounds bad. But it happens a lot. I can solve this problem. However, if you actually had the money to hire me (I would charge probably about $5,000 to handle a 6 year old DUI warrant case where there was no conviction yet. More if you wanted a trial) I would have to tell you that you are going to have to do some jail time.

      How long? Your exposure would be 2+ years county jail.

      Likely jail time? Last time I had a similar case in an imaginary county – judge gave the person 10 days jail time for each year of the warrant, plus the DUI sentence.

      Probation? I dont know. Are you a flight risk?

      Back to your question Jodi (yes, dude, that is what I changed your name to for your own good)

      What should you do to get a CA drivers license back? 1) Call the CA DMV driver safety office to determine the status of your drivers license right now in CA. Who knows? Maybe the admin per se suspension ran out already, and you can just take the DMV ordered classes (AB 548 classes for most people)?

      But to do that, you will need to be here, in CA.

      Can you possibly get a CA drivers license again from DMV without dealing the fugitive problem? It might be possible for some people, in some counties, for a short period of time.

      Ever see someone standing by the side of the road in handcuffs watching their car get towed away by the government? On a Monday morning at 8:00am? Dont let that be you, Jodi!

  6. JRodriguez says:

    I thought I paid a ticket back in 1995, when I got a new job in 2007, I ran my background and found that I had not paid and had a failure to appear. I never received any notices or had trouble getting my dl or registration so I had no clue. I called and was on hold for hours, then it changed to a misdemeanor, I called and paid. Now what should I do… Please help. I am applying for jobs and not sure if it will show. Doj background, will it come up if it was more than ten years ago?

  7. Ed says:

    Dear Christopher:

    I received a fix it ticket for tinting which I intended to plead not guilty (I had legal tint). CHP officer wrote a court date that is not readable on ticket. I went online three times to search for ticket through citation # and also through Driver’s License # but no record of ticket on the system. Finally, I went to Court House, the clerk discovered CHP officer incorrectly wrote my birth date on ticket and that is why it was not on the online system. Unfortunately for me, clerk told I had failure to appear with bail of $879 and hold on DL with DMV which require $10 to remove. None of this is my fault so I feel I not responsible to pay both the FTA and DMV hold fees. In addition, I can prove tint was legal. What is my recourse for this injustice?

  8. Philip says:

    I was pulled over with suspended registration and no insurance in Needles, CA. I had a court date this weekend and while staying at a hotel in needles that day accidentally slept in and missed court. I still can’t get ahold of the court clerk and I’m very worried I’m gonna be arrested if I try to show in person. What should I do exactly and what do you think will happen to me?

    • DortLaw says:


      Your problem is easily solved. Go to court in person tomorrow at 8 am. Ask for a walk in court appearance on the case.

      When it’s all over, move away from Needles. Go somewhere nicer – like Bodie.

      “Goodbye God, I’m goin to Bodie.”

  9. Joan says:

    I received a traffic ticket for expired registration. I got the date wrong, and therefore, have a failure to appear notice. Is there anything I can do about a payment plan or possible community service in payment. There is no way I can afford to pay the total amount by the due date on the notice. (I live in Clark County, Nevada)

  10. John says:

    Went to court today on a cell phone and FTA charge. The officer no showed and the cell phone charge appeared to dropped leaving the FTA charge. I then verbally asked the judge that if a civil assessment was being made on the case, that it be removed pursuant to PC 1214.1. He laughed and said come back in 10 days (June 26), so the 10 day burden would be met, thus continuing the case.

    Three quick questions, one, if the case was continued, is there a chance the cell phone charge would be back on?
    Second, any idea how else I can appeal to the judge to lower a FTA fine, since the PC 1214.1 argument seemed to only buy me more court time?
    Third, is there any advantage to requesting the 40508a be upgraded to a misdemeanor pursuant to Penal Code 19.8 and PC 17(d).

    Thanks in advance for all your help,

  11. C Elizabeth says:


    The court date for my FTA is coming up and I am not sure what to plead.

    I was pulled over in LA county, right near my college. I did not have my registration or proof of insurance in the vehicle with me, although my car was both registered and insured. While the police officer was writing my fix-it ticket, a Campus Safety officer from my school drove by, recognized both me and the officer, and came over. The police officer and the campus safety guy happened to be friends, chatted for a while, and then finally the campus safety officer came over to my car and told me not to worry, as he had “taken care of everything” and I wasn’t getting a ticket. The police officer came back and said that I wasn’t getting a fine, I just needed to produce the paperwork. I totally misunderstood what was required of me and did not take my documents to court. Months later I found out that I was being fined a little over $1000.
    I set a court date but I don’t know if I have a case at all. I guess my main questions are: do I have a case? what do I plead? if I “plead guilty with an explanation” is that going to reduce my fine? I know that in some cases charges are dropped if the police officer issuing the ticket does not show up…is this that kind of case?

    • C. Eliz,

      I cant tell you how to plead. Too many variables. If you were paying me, I’d tell how to plead. But not for free.

      I can say this:

      If you did not sign a citation, you have a complete defense to those violations.

      If you signed a citation, failed to read it, did not take note of the dead line by your signature, and then lost and ignored it, you might have some bad facts.

      When you get to the $1000 level – it makes sense ot hire an attorney to do the work for you. In LA, I recommend that you hire our local LA Attorney Sponsor Mark Gallagher (Attorneygallagher(at)gmail.com). He is very good with these cases, and knows how to get them resolved right. He is very friendly. Send him an email, ask him for a quote, hire him, send him to go to court for you and let the stress go away. That’s what I say.

  12. J says:

    I failed to appear after recieving a seatbelt violation in Trinity county in 1999. I just moved to the state, is there anything I should do before trying to get a liscence in SoCal?

  13. Casey says:

    Hello, I got a failure to appear notice for a broken windshield. The problems is I sent the ticket signed off by a police officer on the court date. Is that too late? Anyway I paid the bail online so what happens now. I live in Merced CA and got the ticket in Sacramento by the way. Thanks

  14. denzel sisco says:

    if imiss court three times and ihav a warrant out for my arrest but ijust got put back on cal and my courts tomorrow will they arrest me when i show up and its an misdemeanor

  15. Robert says:

    I got a fix-it ticket for my tail lights being by a West Hollywood officer in March of 2010. I paid a mechanic $200 to replace a switch in the steering column of the car , took the car to a police station, payed the fine and had the ticket written off. In Oct. 2010 I got pulled over in West Hollywood for my tail lights being out again. I signed the ticket, but then showed the officer the receipt from the mechanic and proof that I had taken care of a previous fix-it ticket for the tail lights being out. The officer was very nice – he told me he was not going to submit the ticket and that I should take the car back to the mechanic. The car broke down a few days later and I then decided to sell it to an auto dismantler. I never received any notifications from the DMV or LA Superior court after that day. I’m now finding out that the officer did submit the ticket, as I have a FTA on my record. The DMV instructed me to request the vehicle registration information from Sacramento, and then to take it to the traffic court clerk to prove that the vehicle was dismantled. I did just that – got the vehicle registration information document mailed to me from Sacramento and I took it to the assigned court which is Beverly Hills. The clerk told me that I had two options to remove the FTA – I could pay the $800 fine or I could request a court date for the judge to review the document. I asked to schedule a court date and then was given a date 6 months out. I was told this was the earliest date I could get, which seem ridiculous. Is there any way to expedite this process? I’m currently applying for work and I’m worried that this FTA could come up in a background check. Please advise.

    Many thanks,


    • Robert,

      This is actually the messiest great question ever.

      I am just going to tell you somethings and let you figure out the answers: (This info applies to Los Angeles County only – every CA County does this differently, which is completely and totally unfair and illegal, but anyway . . . )

      1) Sounds like you never did pay the fine on the original first case. A careful reading of your question shouts out to us that you think you paid the “fine” at the police station. You did not. You cannot pay a court fine at a police station. Not possible. What you probably paid was the fee to have the police sign off on your traffic citation. Once that is done, you have to go to court to show proff of the correction to the judge, and then you have to pay the court a “dismissal fee” separately. Yes, they charge you to dismiss something.

      if you have proof you paid the dismisal fee in court, you have a complete defense. But you do not have it.

      2) If you did not sign a citation, you have a complete defense. But if you signed a citation with a required court deadline listed right next to your signature, it does not matter what the police officer tell you, you must deal with the court case. The Police are allowed to lie to you on the side of the road. And they do. If you signed a citation and failed to read it, it’s your own fault.

      3) You do not need any documents about the car to resolve these cases. You can just say “guilty” – I did not show prof of correction in time, and pay the fine to end the case. You only need proof of correction, or proof of transfer of vehicle if you want to try to talk the judge into accepting that proof late. But once you actually get into court, the judge may refuse to accept it, so you may be wasting your time.

      4) When you schedule a court date on a VC 40509.5 hold case in Los Angeles, it does not matter how far out the court date is so long as you get the court clerk to release the drivers license hold. They will release the drivers license hold as long as you do not have more than one FTA IF YOU ASK THEM TO. They will not help you automatically. You have to ask. They do not want you to succeed.

      SO imagine this: you get the drivers license hold(s) released and set court dates 5 years later. That would be wonderful! That give you 5 years to save up the money for the fines if you decie to plead guilty and pay at the last second.

      Get it?

      You can solve this problem completely today.

      Call the DMV Driver Safety Office to see if the court released the drivers license holds for the case(s) you have court dates on. They may have If so, go to DMV in person.

      If not, go to the courts, schedule dates, ask for release of the 40509.5 holds.

      If they will not release the holds right now due to multiple FTAs, and you cannot get a quicker court date, you may want to give up and just pay. You do not need any documents about the car at all if you want to end the problem today.

  16. Kelly says:

    Got a fix-it ticket for change of address 3 years ago; I changed the address but didn’t know have to mail in the citation. Now got a driver license renewal notice from DMV told me to contact the court regarding the citation before they can renew my license. Went to court today, the clerk say the fine of the ticket is now $510. I made the appointment to appear in court. Court date is next month, what should I tell the judge? will s/he dismiss the ticket.

    • Kelly, thank you for the question. Dont take this personally, but I have to re write it so that it is accurate, and then I will try to answer:

      Hi, I got a correctable citation because I failed to comply with the law that requires that I keep DMV notified of my current address. I signed the citation without reading it. I never read it afterwards, so I did not understand that it was actually a “promise to appear in court” and that there was a deadline to appear in court with proof of correction right next to my signature. I have not been alive or driving ling enough to know that a traffic ticket is actually a promise to appear in court.

      I failed to appear in court by the deadline date on the Promise to Appear. The court added a failure to appear charge to my case. The court notified DMV of my failure to appear.

      I thought my drivers license was going to expire and that I had to renew it. But I was wrong. What actually happened was the DMV suspended my drivers license, which is way different than having an expired drivers license (See CA Vehicle Code section 12500a vs section 14601.1).

      Instead of just paying the $510 that the court wants, I went to court and set a court date for 1 month from now. I think my drivers license is stil suspended, but I dont know for sure because I am afraid to call DMV.

      I’m going to keep driving anyway.

      What should I tell the judge? Can you check your crystal ball to determine if he/she will dismiss the ticket?


      You missed the deadline to provide proof of correction. But, you might be able to convince the judge to accept your proof of correction anyway if you are persuasive and get a friendly judge. Then again, the judge might just say no.

      You appear to be completely guilty of the failure to appear. I dont see what you can do with that one.

      If this were my case, I’d probably demand a trial and waste a ton of government time until I got the result I needed to avoid the trial.

      But then again, this a $500 problem, and I would not go to any courthouse for less than $500. It’s to hard – to stressful – smells too bad – and the results completely uncertain. You might just be wasting time.

      My recommendation: Pay the $510 in full today. Do not wait for the court date. Get proof you paid. Pay in person at the courthouse in cash. As soon as you pay the court clerk, go to the DMV in person with your proof of payment and get your drivers license reinstated by paying the DMV reinstatement fees.

      This problem is too small to waste time trying to get something done in court, especially if you have to drive between now and the court date. If you get caught driving on a suspended drivers license, this $500 problem will become a $3000 problem and possible loss of your car for 30 days. (in CA)

      I managed to get a court

      • Kelly says:

        But my driver license never got suspend though. It’s a renewal notice that I got from DMV.

        • Kelly, if you are in CA, I would be super surprised if your drivers license were not suspended. You are probably in denial. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe your not in CA. If so, cntact DMV driver safety office to verify the status of your drivers license. If you have a Vehicle Code 40509.5 hold on it for a failure to appear, it is suspended.

          • Kelly says:

            Yes, I live in CA. I didn’t even know about this ticket until recently got a license renewal notice from DMV. The notice said, ” contact the court to clear the 2008 citation, pay the renewal fee of $31, retake the written test and have photo taken at the DMV office. Then I called the court to ask about what citation was that, the clerk told me its a fix-it ticket and told me to come to the court to make appointment for the court date.

  17. Sam says:

    Two months ago, I went to a car dealer to buy a car. He gave me a car to test before I can buy. He put a wrong plate on it. As such, I got pulled over by the police officer and he issued me a ticked with misdemeanor. In the court date, I hired a lawyer and attended the hearing. The judge reduced the charge from dealer plate “misdemeanor” to Impeding traffic ” civil infraction” and waived the fine because I was a victim by the car dealer. I got a report from the court the same day with the judge decision. So, should my record be clean for the citizenship and employment purposes??? Please help coz I’m so worried!

    Thanks so much

    • Sam, of course I cant tell for sure what happened with your case because of limited info, but I can say that infractions are not crimes, and do not create a criminal record. Misdemeanors are crimes and do create a criminal record. Check your paperwork.

  18. Gavin says:

    I got a ticket recently in Los Angeles issued by the Highway Patrol. I went online and scheduled a date to go into court at the Santa Clarita courthouse, but afterwards decided to simply pay the ticket by mail. I sent in a check and it was processed but recently received a Failure to Appear in the mail.

    I’ve scheduled another court date to go in. The new fee is extremely high, I want to go in and dispute that I had already paid the ticket and thus was not required to go into court and so the failure to appear was incorrect. However I’m not sure if I’ve messed up by originally scheduling a date and then only paying for the ticket afterwards.

    When I enter the courtroom, what should I tell the judge to try and reduce/remove this fee and clear up the case?

  19. Narine says:

    Hello Christopher,
    I received a speeding ticket in Pasadena California. I failed to appear in court and now have a bail amount of $773.00. If I go to court, with an apology letter and evidence as to why I failed to appear, do I plead guilty or not guilty? I do not want it to go down as a misdemeanor and I am afraid I will say the wrong thing in court. I am hoping it is just an infraction. Can you please help me out? I really appreciate it.

  20. CR says:

    sorry, reread, forgot pertinent information:

    .. received initial ticket in Orange County, was pulled over for the suspended license in Burbank. Failed to appear in court in regards to the Burbank . . . “incident”.
    Sincerely, and without making a series of excuses, work all the time, have adult ADHD, just forgot. Never been in trouble with the law before, with no intention of starting anytime soon. Really nervous might lose AMAZING job if i receive jail time. PLEASE help.

  21. CR says:

    so this is what’s going on:
    Received a speeding ticket a little while ago in Orange County, and payed the fine; very soon after received another one, and just forgot to pay that ticket, for whatever reason. (in retrospect) Didn’t appear in court, and (again, in retrospect) a warrant was issued. fast forward about 7 months, i am pulled over for a broken tailight in girlfriends car, driving home from work. Officer informs me my license is suspended (to my sincere surprise, having not received any correspondence indicating as such), but i think after hearing i am former military, he DIDNT take my license, DIDNT issue a fine, although he indicated to me that he was supposed to take it, just handed me back my suspended license and gave me a notice to appear in court.

    fast forward to today.

    Parent(s) called me to tell me that an Orange County Sheriff had stopped by while they were out, and left her business card on their door, with my name on it, asking me to call said individual female (officer?). I live and work in L.A. county, have for almost a year now, and the fact that the police are even LOOKING for me, is completely surprising. I remember that there was a court date, and that i missed it, and after reading heavily into the subject, i have surmised that i probably have a 40508a with a possible warrant.
    I AM former military, and DONT break the law to the best of my ability. I have never been in trouble with civilian or military police, and am trying to figure out the best course of action here. Upon calling my father, his suggestion was to call the number I’ve been given (Orange County Sheriff number) and attempt to figure out exactly what’s going on, but i’m not sure if thats the best initial course of action.


  22. Joe says:


    I received a ticket for no front license plate in Pasadena CA, due to some personal reasons I completely forgot about the court appearance. I just received a notice of failure to appear & the fine is now $1700.00. Is there a way to get the fine reduced?

    • Joe, good question. This is not a front license plate problem anymore. Those are $300 problems. Hopefully your drivers license is not yet suspended. At this level it makes a ton of sense to hire Los Angeles Warrant Attorney Mark Gallagher (attorneygallagher@gmail.com) to go to court for you in the next day or so. He can probably save your license, and may be able to save you more than the cost of his work. And, and , and you do not have to go to court at all. This problem can be solved in 1 day.

  23. Dan says:

    I received a speeding ticket in Siskiyou county about 30 years ago. I can’t remember if I paid the fine or not. How should I proceed? I am an Oregon Resident.

    • Dan, I am going to be a jerk for a moment just to make a point for everyone, because I get useless facts from people in questions all the time.

      Who cares where you live? So what if you are a resident of OR? Does that mean you do not have to go to court? No. Does it mean you have a complete defense? No. Does it mean you a special right to ignore a failure to appear? No. Does it mean anything at all? No, No, No, No. No one cares where you live. It does not matter.

      What is important is “Where did the incident happen?” – because there is where you look to find the right courthouse to call or visit.

      OK what was the question? Crap, I lost all my momentum on a useless fact, again. Fourth of July Starts now. Sorry.

  24. Salvador says:

    hi there well just to get things straighten out i’m 19 years old now and i am very concerned about my situation since i never appeared to the court dates they had given me when i was younger i actually owe five tickets that i never had shown up to court for and now they prevent me from getting a drivers license but they were all measly misdemeanor all because of my childish ways…to top it off today i was hanging out with some buddy of mine and we got a citation for drinking in public 16oz can not much of a deal but now i have to go to court next month and im kind of worried my questions are:
    Will my misdemeanor tickets show up when i go to court,and is it possible for them to put me in jail ?
    When i got arrested today they ran my name in there system so why didn’t those old citations pop out? i know they should be warrants but whats the reason?
    Can there be an option for clearing up those tickets by doing community service?

    Someone please answer my questions i feel pretty dam lost,id appreciate your time and honesty with all respect. Thank you

    • Salvador,

      Misdemeanors are real crimes that carry possible jail time. Infractions are not crimes, and have only fines as a penalty.

      A failure to appear on a signed promise to appear (citation) is a misdemeanor crime that often will come with a bench warrant for your arrest if the original violation was in fact a misdemeanor.

      You need to contact the court clerk for the County Superior Court where the incidents happened. (Assuming you are in CA) You have to do it today. I recommend that you go in person.

      Check with the Traffic Division Court Clerk, and the Criminal Division Court Clerk for pending cases.

      Get your driving history report from DMV, and check that for open cases as well.

      Once you find them all = try to get court dates on all of them, or pay them off (which ever makes the most sense for your situation). Sometimes you can just pay. Sometimes you have to go to court in person. Sometimes, when you have too many, you have to go to jail first.

      Sometimes, you have to go to jail until you can post bail or until the judge releases you.

      Hope that helps. The bottom line is you need to go to the court(s) in person and start checking.

      You are on the right track. Dont stop.

  25. Carrie says:

    I have a Failure to Appear for a speeding ticket in California, in Siskiyou county. I live in Alameda County, 300 miles away. I got the ticket 9 months ago. My questions are:

    Is my only option to pay the fine and live with the point on my license, since the 60 days to sign up for traffic school are long gone?

    Is there any way to make a case around it being a hardship for me to travel to Siskiyou county?

    How long does a point stay on your license if traffic school is not an option? Forever?

    • Carrie – It does not matter where you live. Living far away from the court is not a defense at all. Forget about that part of the story. You are subject to the orders of the court, even if it is 800 miles away, and even if you have now way to drive there.

      Negligent driver points can stay on your DMV driver history report for 4, or 5 years, or even longer if DMV employees are not expunging the records as the law requires (which is very common). I cannot tell what your original violation was, so I cannot give you any other detail.

      Your best option is to go to that court in person. You can do it. Syskiyou to Oakland? I could do it, no problem. I used to regularly drive from the beach in San Diego to Downtown LA Courthouse and be there and parked and in the building by 8:15 am. Try that some day and you’ll stop wondering if it is possible to get from Sis to Oakland on time. I used to make that Commute a couple times a week. 4.5 hour drive. One day, the drive home took me 18 hours because of a toxic waste spill. Another day, the trip up took me 6.5 hours, because of a massive fire storm that I drove right through. Lost my voice due to smoke in my car. But I made it.

      Some days I had to stay the night on the road to get to court on time. Maybe that’s what you have to do.

      If you are unwilling to go to court because it’s too hard (which is the real truth here) – you have no option other thank to pay in full exactly what they tell you to.

      Pay by money or (no personal check). Send it from the USPS with proof of delivery required. Keep copies of everything. Call DMV right not verify the status of your drivers license. Make sure they have your current address (right now – call them). If your drivers license is suspended, after you pay in full and the hold has cleared the DMV, you need to go to the DMV in person to get your drivers license reinstated. It does not happen automagically.

      Oh yea, I forget to tell you the important part. This is not a “points” problem. You probably dont even have a valid drivers license right now. Dont worry about the points at all. Call DMV to see if you have a license at all.

  26. Wendy says:

    My husband was arrested in San Bernardino County in 1988 for failure to appear on traffic violations, no seat belt and the old memory thinks a fix it ticket. He is doing his employment background check paperwork, it asks for any misdemeanor or felony. It also a job that you will not get if you try to conceal the fact that you have a conviction, moral turpitude violations are the biggest “red flags” for this background check. He saw the judge in jail, he did a couple days and was released with time served.
    He was young and has no information other than
    his fading memory. He has passed background check with casinos in Las Vegas and California and has not disclosed this. Please give me your opinion on this. Thanks!!

  27. Douglas A Mckenna Jr says:

    In response to the last post I have a question. Does a “failure to Appear” show up on a record before seeing the Judge? If you’re looking for a job that does back ground checks and fingerprinting, will the “failure to appear” appear before seeing a Judge? In California.

    • Douglas, your question is way too vague. What do you mean “before you see a judge”? I dont get it. Do you mean while you are waiting in jail after you are arrested on the warrant? Or do you mean while you are sitting on the side of the road watching your car be impounded because you were driving on a suspended drivers license? Are you talking about a a failure to appear on a gang related homicide or on a speeding charge? Well – I can say this: most missed court dates will result in 1) a bench warrant; 2) suspended drivers license; and or 3) new misdemeanor criminal charges. And what kind of record are you talking about? DMV record? Arrest record? INS Record? Conviction record? I can say this – if you have a warrant and pending criminal charges, it is public record.

  28. hi Cristopher,
    i failed to appear to pay a speeding ticket.simple mistake. i got a letter in the mail that i missed and had to pay, and didnt have to go to court. so i paid online.
    The next day i went to court and asked the clerk for traffic school. she said yes.so i payed. she then said that i had a misdemeanor. because i didnt see a judge.
    she suggested i write a letter to the judge to remove it. the problem i have is that my job of 16 years does back ground checks, and i will lose my job. do you think
    the judge will accept my plea, or can a lawyer help me.
    thank you for your time.

    • Gerardo, I cannot tell what court, or even what state you are in. And that is some extremely important info that people always leave out. Good thing for you I am psychic. I suspect that the court clerk you spoke too does not understand the difference between a misdemeanor failure to appear charge and an infraction. Most people dont – even if they get paid by the county to show up at the courthouse every morning. You dont become a traffic court clerk because you did well in law school. You become a traffic court clerk because you did not go to law school. So if it were me, I would not trust what she told me. Or he. In California, you cannot be convicted of a misdemeanor unless: 1) you are found guilty at a trial (and you have the right to a jury trial that cannot be waived for you by the court due to absence); or 2) you plead guilty in open court and give up your right to a JURY trial either on the record with your words or on paper with what is called a “Misdemeanor Waiver Form”. Chances are that the court clerk you spoke to just does not understand what is going on in the court. Would not surprise me. You cannot get convicted of a misdemeanor in CA “Because you did not see the judge”. It’s just plain impossible. Actually, unconstitutional because you have the right to a jury trial in CA. If you really want to know – go to the court in person and get a certified copy of the conviction record. FINALLY – how in the world would I know if you are going to lose your job, unless I really was psychic. And if I really knew that, and you were going to lose your job, I wouldnt tell you.

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