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Penal Code 1320 & 1320.5 Failure to appear

By Spodek Law Group | July 13, 2021
(Last Updated On: March 19, 2023)

Last Updated on: 19th March 2023, 01:34 am

What Happens if You Fail to Appear in Court in California?

Understanding Penal Code 1320 & 1320.5 PC

California law views it as a serious offense if a person willingly fails to appear in court when required, as defined by Penal Code 1320 & 1320.5 PC. Failure to appear for a felony charge is a felony offense, while failure to appear for a misdemeanor charge is a misdemeanor crime.

Charges under Penal Code 1320 & 1320.5 PC

If a defendant is released on “own recognizance,” the law applies to them. Additionally, PC 1320.5 applies to a defendant’s failure to appear when they have been charged or convicted of a felony, and they have been released on bail. Failure to appear in such cases is viewed as a crime, and a defendant can face charges accordingly.

Understanding the Law in Detail

Penal Code 1320 PC prohibits a person from willfully failing to appear in court when required to do so. To convict someone under this statute, the prosecutor must prove the following things:

The defendant was charged with or convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony
The defendant willfully failed to appear in court as directed
The defendant did so to avoid the court process
The defendant was released from custody on their own recognizance
The term “willfully” means that the person deliberately committed the criminal act, in this case, failing to show up for a court date, with the intention of breaking the law.

Release on Own Recognizance vs. Bail

Penal Code 1320 applies when a person has been released from custody on their own recognizance, an “O.R. release.” In this case, a judge allows the defendant to leave custody without posting bail.

Under an O.R. release, the defendant must sign a written agreement with the court in which they agree to appear in court when directed, not leave the state without the court’s permission, waive extradition if they fail to make an appearance and are apprehended outside California, recognize that they have been informed of the repercussions of breaching the terms of release, and heed all reasonable conditions imposed by the court.

If a judge refuses an O.R. release, they may set bail and detain the defendant until they post bail. If the defendant posts bail, they are said to have been released from custody on bail. If they can’t afford to post bail, they will remain in detention.

Failing to appear in court can lead to serious legal consequences, such as fines, probation, or even jail time, depending on the type of charge involved. If a person fails to appear in court for a traffic ticket, their license may be suspended, and an arrest warrant may be issued. Additionally, immigration consequences may be imposed if a person fails to appear in court.

Defenses and Expungement

There are legal defenses that a defendant can use to fight a failure to appear charge, such as mistaken identity or an emergency that prevented them from appearing in court. If a person is convicted of a failure to appear charge, it can affect their gun rights. However, they may be eligible for expungement under certain circumstances.


Failing to appear in court can have serious legal consequences. If you’re facing a failure to appear charge, it’s essential to seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.

What is Penal Code 1320.5 PC and what are its consequences?

Penal Code 1320.5 PC is a California law that makes it a crime for a defendant charged with or convicted of a felony and released on bail to fail to appear in court. The failure to appear in court willfully is a felony offense that carries severe consequences, including a maximum fine of $10,000, imprisonment in a county jail for a maximum of three years, or a state prison prosecutor sentence for a maximum of three years.

The Defenses Against PC 1320 Accusations

If you’re facing charges under PC 1320, you can raise three common defenses. The first one is the “No willful act” defense, which states that the accused party is only guilty if he or she willfully failed to appear in court. It’s a strong legal defense to show that you didn’t act willfully but rather forgot about the court date.

The second defense is the “No attempt to evade the court process” defense, which states that a defendant is only guilty of breaching PC 1320 if they failed to appear in court with the intention of avoiding the court process. You can raise this defense by showing that you didn’t attempt to avoid the court process by not appearing and had a valid reason like an emergency.

The third defense is the “Falsely accused” defense, which is valid if the defendant is falsely accused of violating Penal Code 1320.

Penalties for Failure to Appear in Court

If the defendant is charged with or convicted of a misdemeanor, failure to appear in court is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for a maximum of six months and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

If the defendant is charged with or convicted of a felony, failure to appear in court is a felony punishable by a fine of up to $5,000, imprisonment in county jail for a maximum of one year, or a state prison sentence of 16 months, two years, or a maximum of three years.

Expungement of Failure to Appear in Court Conviction

A person convicted under PC 1320 can try to get the offense expunged by completing probation or serving a jail term. An expunged conviction doesn’t need to be disclosed to potential employers. PC 1203.4 authorizes an expungement for a misdemeanor or felony offense as long as the applicant successfully completes probation, is not currently on probation, charged with a criminal offense, or serving a sentence for a criminal offense.

Impact on Gun Rights

A conviction for failure to appear under Penal Code 1320 does not automatically impact a person’s gun rights. However, some felony and misdemeanor convictions may result in the defendant losing their gun rights in California, and some misdemeanors carry a 10-year firearm ban.

Other Laws Associated with Failure to Appear

Three other laws are associated with failure to appear in court: Failure to appear – California Vehicle Code 40508VC, Fines for failure to appear – California Penal Code 1214.1PC, and Hold on a driver’s license – California Vehicle Code 40509.5VC.

Contact Spodek Law Group for a free, confidential consultation in-office or by phone. We serve clients throughout California, including the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Long Beach, Riverside, San Diego, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, Orange County, Sonoma County, Ventura, Sacramento, San Jose, and the greater Los Angeles area.

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