Is it a Felony if I Miss a Court Date for Bail Jumping in California?

bail jumping felony

Getting arrested and released on bail can already feel overwhelming. You likely have a lot on your mind between mounting legal fees, complications with work, and simply trying to continue on with your daily responsibilities.

So, it’s understandable if a court date might slip through the cracks. However, missing a court appearance while out on bail – known as “bail jumping” – can result in severe consequences above and beyond your original criminal charges.

So, how does missing a court date trigger felony charges rather than just a slap on the wrist? And do you really face years behind bars for what might feel like an honest mistake?

As California criminal defense attorneys with years of experience, we’re here to provide straightforward answers. We’ll clarify exactly when bail jumping becomes a felony, what penalties you might realistically face, and, most importantly, what proactive steps you can take if you regrettably miss your court date after posting bail.


When Missing Court Becomes a Felony

Let’s start by distinguishing an unintentional failure to appear for a court hearing from a willful act of bail jumping. Skipping out on your court date deliberately or without a legitimate excuse can result in felony charges under California Penal Code Section 1320.5.

You may face:

  • Up to 3 years in California state prison
  • Fines up to $10,000

However, if you can demonstrate that your absence resulted from circumstances out of your control, you may be able to defend against the more serious bail-jumping counts.

For example, legitimate reasons for missing a court date might include:

  • A medical emergency requiring hospitalization
  • Car accident or breakdown while in transit to court
  • Death in the family
  • Absence from the state due to military service or employment

The key question becomes whether you intended to evade the legal process or simply failed to appear through no fault or choice of your own.

Prosecutors may take additional factors into account as well, such as:

  • Your criminal history and record of past court appearances
  • The current charges and offenses you’re facing
  • Any indication that you’re a flight risk

Bottom line? The court wants some reassurance you’re not trying to willfully duck your legal obligations if you miss a hearing after making bail.

What Happens If Bail Is Revoked?

Beyond new criminal charges for bail jumping, missing your court event can prompt the judge to revoke your bail. This essentially rescinds the prior opportunity for release from custody before trial.

If bail is revoked due to a failure to appear, a warrant is also issued for your immediate arrest. That subjects you to potential apprehension by law enforcement at any time without notice.
Not appearing may complicate your underlying criminal case as well. New bail terms after a missed court date often involve higher payment amounts or additional restrictions on travel or associations.

Judges become much less likely to grant you bail again down the road.
And if you remain at large after missing court, the consequences escalate further still. Prosecutors typically pursue more aggressive punishment, seeking sentencing enhancements upon conviction.

Defense Against Bail Jumping Charges

If you’re charged with bail jumping under Penal Code 1320.5, having an experienced felony lawyer in your corner can mean the difference between a felony on your record versus maintaining your innocence.

Here’s how we would strategically fight those allegations on your behalf:

Present Evidence You Didn’t Act Willfully

The most direct defense involves demonstrating that your failure to appear resulted from forces out of your control rather than an intentional desire to evade the courts.

As noted above, legitimate reasons like medical issues, family loss, or lack of transportation go a long way here. Credible documentation like doctor’s notes, accident reports, or employer verification also bolsters this strategy.


Negotiate with the Prosecutor

In cases without ironclad proof that your absence rose to willful bail jumping, we can advocate for mercy. Especially for those with limited or dated criminal histories, many prosecutors will agree to drop the felony charge in exchange for pleading guilty to the underlying offense. This still carries consequences but prevents the long-term stain of a felony conviction.


Argue Unconstitutionality

In rare cases, we may also argue that the bail-jumping charges violate Constitutional rights if the court fails to provide adequate legal counsel or give proper warnings about the consequences of missing court. But because notices about hearing dates usually satisfy the notice requirement, this defense remains quite limited.

While the defenses can seem narrow, an adept California criminal lawyer thoroughly investigates the circumstances and identifies every viable argument against these allegations. But it also remains critical to take reasonable steps if you miss a court event after making bail – both to mitigate the consequences and reinforce your innocence.


What to Do If You Miss Court After Posting Bail

Even without willful bail jumping, failing to show up for court while released on bail can radically complicate your situation.

Here are the smartest next steps we advise if your court date inadvertently slips through the cracks:

1. Promptly Communicate with Your Bail Bonds Company

For those who enlist a bail bond agent or surety company to post bail, these entities have tremendous incentives to track you down. That way, they can voluntarily surrender you to the court and avoid bond forfeiture. So, proactively reaching out demonstrates responsibility and transparency that weighs favorably down the line.

2. Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer About Potential Options

Speaking with legal counsel equips you to make informed choices rather than reacting blindly. We can request a continuance to reschedule the missed court date, prepare any documents needed to travel freely, petition for bail reinstatement, and take other immediate actions tailored to your priorities. Retaining an attorney also displays a commitment to resolving matters properly.

3. Voluntarily Appear Before the Court as Soon as Possible

Although it may feel tempting to lay low or delay the inevitable after missing court, promptly turning yourself in often earns the greatest leniency from judges and prosecutors. Courts view it as taking accountability rather than dodging obligations.

We can arrange the surrender, provide counsel throughout the process, and request a fresh court date to resolve the underlying criminal matters.

4. Take Responsible Action to Get the Best Results

As California criminal defense attorneys, we’ve seen firsthand how proactive steps after missing a court event on bail can mitigate short and long-term fallout. But we’ve also witnessed how dodging issues or hoping problems disappear on their own leads down much harder roads. Don’t risk it – be forthright to protect your rights and future.


Don’t Fight Failure To Appear Allegations Alone – The Kolacia Law Team Can Help

If you now face consequences for missing a court date in California, trying to tackle bail revocation, arrest warrants, or new criminal charges by yourself feels overwhelming.

You don’t have to handle these allegations alone when experienced California criminal defense attorneys have your back.

Our firm understands every nuance of California bail laws and how to build an airtight case, proving you acted responsibly rather than intentionally jumping bail if complications arose. Over the past 15+ years, we’ve leveraged smart, custom-crafted arguments to achieve countless positive outcomes for clients.

Contact us today to schedule your case review.


Author Bio

Daniel Kolacia is the CEO and Managing Partner of Kolacia Law Firm, a Rancho Cucamonga, CA, criminal defense law firm. As a former prosecutor with more than 15 years of experience in criminal defense, he is knowledgeable about both sides of the courtroom, an advantage he uses to help defend his clients. He has zealously represented clients in various legal matters, including white-collar crimes, misdemeanors, felonies, traffic cases, and other criminal charges.

Daniel received his Juris Doctor from the Southwestern University School of Law and is a member of the California Bar Association. He has received numerous accolades for his work and has worked on several high-profile cases featured on Dateline, CNBC, Los Angeles Times, and various local publications.

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