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901.31 Failure to Obey Written Promise to Appear

Florida Statute Section 901.31 explains the penalties if you willfully fail to appear before any court or judicial officer as required by a written notice to appear. If you are charged with failing to obey a written promise to appear in court, then the court can impose:

  • a fine that is not more than the amount of the fine that could be imposed for the principal charge; or
  • imprisoned up to the maximum sentence of imprisonment of the principal charge.

In many of these cases, the person accused of failing to appear in court gets picked up on the warrant while out of county. The authorities in that county will hold the person in custody until they can be transported to the county in which the warrant originated. In many of those cases, the person can be admitted to bail even when the arrest occurs in another county.

When a warrant is issued on the charge, the warrant will sometimes say "f.t.a. on written promise." The acronym "F.T.A." stands for failure to appear.

Attorney for the FTA on Written Promise in Hillsborough County, FL

If you have a warrant or capias outstanding for a FTA on written promise then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm. We represent clients for both felony and misdemeanor charges. Our offices are located in downtown Tampa in Hillsborough County and in New Port Richey across from the West Pasco Judicial Center.

In some cases, we can file a motion to withdraw the failure to appear capias so that our client does not have to go into custody or have another mugshot taken. Contact us to find out more about your options to resolve the case during a free and confidential consultation.

Call 813-250-0500.


What is the Written Promise to Appear in Court?

Under Florida law, you are entitled to be released custody while you are awaiting a resolution of the criminal charges pending against you. In many misdemeanor cases, the arresting officer will issued a notice to appear and release you at the scene so that you do not have to formally go into custody at the jail. In some cases, the officer will make a formal arrest and transported to the jail. The booking officer at the jail might even elect to release the person on a notice to appear at booking.

When the notice to appear issued by the arresting officer or the booking officer is very similar to a summons issued by the court. The notice to appear is a written directive issued for a person accused of committing a crime. As explained in the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedures 3.125(a), the written directive requires the person to appear in a designated court or governmental office at a specified date and time. 

The notice to appear is issued in lieu of physical arrest and booking into the jail.  Not only does the notice to appear facilitate the pretrial release of the person accused of the crime, the notice to appear can also serve as a charging instrument.

If you comply with the instructions on the notice to appear by going to court at the specified time and place, then you are generally not subjected to any type of pretrial restraint upon your freedom. But if you fail to comply with these instructions, the trial court is required to issue an arrest warrant as explained in Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.125(h).


When Can a Notice to Appear Be Issued?

The notice to appear can be issued by either the arresting officer at the time of arrest or by the booking officer at the jail. Florida law describes the circumstances under which the arresting or booking officers is permitted to issue a notice to appear. 

The arresting officer can issue a notice to appear if the person is arrested for an offense declared to be a misdemeanor of the first or second degree or a violation, or is arrested for violation of a municipal or county ordinance triable in the county, and demand to be taken before a judge is not made, notice to appear may be issued by the arresting officer unless:

  • the accused fails or refuses to sufficiently identify himself or herself or supply the required information;
  • the accused refuses to sign the notice to appear;
  • the officer has reason to believe that the continued liberty of the accused constitutes an unreasonable risk of bodily injury to the accused or others;
  • the accused has no ties with the jurisdiction reasonably sufficient to assure the accused's appearance or there is substantial risk that the accused will refuse to respond to the notice;
  • the officer has any suspicion that the accused may be wanted in any jurisdiction; or
  • it appears that the accused previously has failed to respond to a notice or a summons or has violated the conditions of any pretrial release program.

The notice to appear can be issued by the booking officer when the arresting officer does not issue notice to appear if the booking officer determines that there is a likelihood that the accused will appear as directed, based on a reasonable investigation into the following factors pertaining to the person accused:

  • the residence and length of residence in the community;
  • family ties in the community;
  • employment record;
  • character and mental condition;
  • past record of convictions; or
  • past history of appearance at court proceedings.

Florida law provides that if the defendant is issued a notice to apepar and then willfully fails to appear in court as directed by a notice to appear, he or she may be subject to imprisonment or a fine of up to the maximum on the underlying charge. s. 901.31, F.S. The court may also hold the defendant in contempt for failure to appear.


Additional Resources

Chapter 901 of the Florida Statutes - Visit the website of the Florida Senate to find statutes listed in Chapter 901 of Title XLVII. The statutes in Chapter 901 govern the processes and procedures for making an arrest in Florida. For example, Section 901.15, Florida Statutes, governs when an arrest by an officer without a warrant is lawful. Other provisions set out the rules for the issuance of an arrest warrant, when the summons is issued, how the summons is served, when the notice to appear by an officer without a warrant is lawful, and methods of arrest by an officer with or without a warrant.


This article was last updated on Wednesday, August 22, 2018.