I. PC 1320: Failing to Appear on Misdemeanor or Felony Own Recognizance
(a) Every person who is charged with or convicted of the commission of a misdemeanor who is released from custody on his or her own recognizance and who in order to evade the process of the court willfully fails to appear as required, is guilty of a misdemeanor. It shall be presumed that a defendant who willfully fails to appear within 14 days of the date assigned for his or her appearance intended to evade the process of the court.
(b) Every person who is charged with or convicted of the commission of a felony who is released from custody on his or her own recognizance and who in order to evade the process of the court willfully fails to appear as required, is guilty of a felony, and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars ($5,000) or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170, or in the county jail for not more than one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment. It shall be presumed that a defendant who willfully fails to appear within 14 days of the date assigned for his or her appearance intended to evade the process of the court.
To be found guilty under PC 1320 prosecution must prove that you:
1. You are charged with the commission of a felony or a misdemeanor
2. You were convicted of the commission of a felony or a misdemeanor
3. You were released from custody on your own recognizance;
4. In order to evade the process of the court, you willfully failed to appear as required.
II. What does this mean?
This charge occurs when you were released from custody and given a future date to appear in Court for a misdemeanor or a felony offense. This can happen when you are “cite released” from the jail with a ticket and a future Court Date. You’re required to sign the ticket to agree to appear in court in the future. Failing to do so is another offense, depending on whether you have a felony or misdemeanor charge against you. In addition, if you appear in Court on a criminal case, and a judge agrees to release you from jail without posting a bail bond, and you later fail to appear, this new charge can be added to your case.
Whether your violation under PC 1320 is a misdemeanor or a felony depends on whether the underlying charge, meaning the original case you failed to appear on in Court, as well as your criminal history.
A violation under PC 1320(a) is a misdemeanor offense. If you are convicted of this charge, you could be sentenced to up to 180 days in County Jail. You would be required to serve at least 50% of that time in custody.
A violation under PC 1320(b) is a wobbler offense. This means you can be charged under this section as a misdemeanor or as a felony offense. Whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony offense depends on the specific facts of your case as well as your criminal history. If you are convicted under this section as a felony, you could be sentenced to County Prison for upwards of 16 months, 2 or 3 years. You would have to serve at least 50% of that time in custody. If you are convicted under this section as a misdemeanor, you could be sentenced to upwards of one year in County Jail. You would have to serve at least 50% of that time in custody. You would also be subject to fines up to $5000 for a conviction under this section.
Another factor the Court considers is whether or not you have prior failures to appear in the past for that same case or a new one. This could also be a reason for why a Judge revokes your own recognizance status and setting a high bail in your case.
This is not a strike offense under California’s Three Strikes Law. It is also not a Sex Offense requiring Sex Registration under PC 290. PC 1320 is not a crime of moral turpitude, but it could be considered an aggravated felony, so it could directly impact your status in Immigration Court or if you have a professional license.
IV. Common Defenses
A defense to this charge could be that you were never given notice of the Court Date. Especially in times, during a pandemic, Court dates move, and Court’s close down. When that happens, and your Court Date moves, you may not know when your next Court Hearing is. If that were to happen, the Court normally sends a notice to your last known address. If you never received that notice, you would be able to argue that you did not willfully disobey a requirement to appear in Court, because you were never told when the new Court date is. This would allow you to argue that there is insufficient evidence to prove you guilty of this charge.
If you have a valid reason or excuse, such as a doctor visit, you can normally avoid this new charge by calling the court or having your attorney appear for you. Speak with your attorney on how best to explain your situation to avoid you receiving a new charge and being subject to stiffer fines and more jail time.
V. Call Today
A failure to appear can revoke your status of OR, and add more time to a possible sentence if you are convicted of this charge, and the other charge you failed to appear on. Our PC 1320 Ontario attorney has successfully defended hundreds of criminal cases all over Southern California focusing on the Inland Empire. The initial consultation is free and we are available to answer your questions 24/7. Call the Inland Empire Criminal Defense today at 909-939-7126! Located in Ontario, CA.