What To Do If You Missed a Court Date For a Traffic Violation

Getting charged with a traffic violation can be really bothersome. Instead of doing something productive, you’ll have to appear before a traffic court judge and plead your case. But it can even be worse when you miss your court date.

A traffic court judge holding a grovel.

In general, the court only recognizes three valid reasons for missing a court date. One is if you’d been incarcerated before your scheduled trial. Another is when you’re called to military duty. The court also considers medical emergencies or hospitalization. Excuses like “it slipped my mind”, “I had to work” or “I was out of town” are definitely not acceptable.

So what should you do when you miss your court date for a traffic violation? First, let’s look at what punishments you can expect after missing your court date.

What Happens When You Miss Your Court Date?

Punishments for missing court dates typically vary per state. In general, the most direct consequence is missing the opportunity to defend yourself. With no one to challenge the ticket, you’ll most likely be automatically found guilty of the traffic violation you’re charged with.

In some states like North Carolina, the courts allow you up to 20 days to make up for your actions. Failure to appear before the courts within this time can earn you a penalty of $200. This is, however, usually applicable to non-serious traffic tickets. If your traffic violation constitutes a misdemeanor or felony charge, the court can set aside the 20-day rule and issue a warrant right away.

Missing a traffic court date in California can either forfeit your bail or prevent you from renewing your license. If you posted bail before the scheduled trial date, the court will forfeit your bail and apply it to the fines you need to pay for failing to appear. If you were released on recognizance and no bail had been paid, you’ll most likely have an FTA on your record and a fine of up to $1,000. The court can also issue a bench warrant against you. This prevents you from renewing your driver’s license even outside of California.

Most states usually allow you to call the court in advance if you can’t make it on the scheduled trial date. Some courts would even allow defendants to request a rescheduling.

What Remedies Can You Do?

Once you realized that you’ve missed your court date, you must get in touch with the court as soon as possible. Procedures for making up with a missed court date can vary per county. Cooperate with the rescheduling process and make sure that you are available on your new court date.

Give yourself ample reminders to avoid missing it again. Write it in all your online and offline calendars. You can also ask someone you trust to save it in their calendars so they can remind you when the day approaches.

If a bench warrant had already been issued, you can get arrested before or on the day you appear in court. You may hire an attorney to ask for the warrant to be set aside but there’s no guarantee it will be granted.

What If You’re Sent To Jail?

Depending on the type of violation you’re charged with, some traffic charges are usually bailable. But if your case is non-bailable, then you will spend some time in jail.

Incarceration can be hard, not just for you but for your family too. This is what JailAid is for. Our mission is to help the inmate and their families cope with imprisonment. We have an extensive resource of jail services such as how to make cheap jail calls or send cheap jail mail postcards. You can also access our inmate locator as well as our database or prison support groups all around the country.


This does not constitute a professional opinion. For more reliable legal advice, we recommend you consult a professional attorney.

About Judy Ponio

Judy Ponio has written plenty of articles about prison in the United States and how it affects the prisoners and their families. She continues to write in the hopes of bettering the lives of inmates all over the country.

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