Dealing with Bench Warrants in Westchester County, NY: A Helpful Guide for the Average Joe
So you got yourself into a bit of trouble and now you’re facing a bench warrant in Westchester County, NY. Don’t sweat it! This stuff happens to the best of us. Let me walk you through what these warrants are all about, what your options are, and how a good lawyer can help. I’ll try to keep it simple and straightforward – no fancy legal mumbo jumbo here!
What is a Bench Warrant?
First things first – a bench warrant is basically a court order for your arrest. It means you missed a court date or violated a court order like probation or bail conditions. When that happens, the judge can issue a warrant directing the police to pick you up and bring you before the court.
These warrants are called “bench” warrants because they are issued from the judge’s bench in the courtroom. They are also sometimes called arrest warrants or capias warrants. But don’t let the name scare ya – having a warrant does NOT necessarily mean you are going to jail. More on that later.
How Do I Know if I Have a Warrant in Westchester County?
Obviously it’s good to know if you have an active warrant out there. Here are some ways to check:
- Call the Westchester County Sheriff’s Office warrant division at 914-995-2000. Give them your name and date of birth and they can tell you if you have any outstanding warrants.
- Search for yourself on the Westchester County online warrant lookup. You just need your name and DOB.
- Ask a lawyer to run you through the NY criminal database. They have access to search for warrants statewide.
- If you get pulled over or have a police encounter, they’ll likely let you know about any warrants during processing.
- When in doubt, call an attorney. Better safe than sorry if you think you may have missed a court date!
What Happens When a Warrant is Issued?
If the judge determines you missed a court appearance or violated release conditions, they can immediately issue a warrant for your arrest. This puts you into the statewide criminal database accessible by all police agencies.
Here’s the typical process:
- Judge signs and issues the warrant
- Warrant entered into the NY criminal justice computer system
- Local police and sheriff’s offices notified to pick you up
- If you have contact with law enforcement, they arrest you on the warrant
- You are fingerprinted, photographed, and held until seeing the judge
Now here’s the kicker – just because you get arrested on a warrant does NOT mean you will stay in jail. The warrant simply brings you before the court to address why you missed court or violated conditions.
Many times you can be quickly released after clearing up the matter. But for more serious crimes, the judge may set bail or hold you without bail. There are many factors they consider when deciding whether to release you or not.
An experienced criminal lawyer can argue to the judge why you should be released on your own recognizance or have bail set at an affordable level. Don’t waive your right to counsel!
How to Turn Yourself In on a Warrant
Once you confirm you have an active warrant, you should address it ASAP. Leaving it open puts you at constant risk of getting arrested at work, home, during a traffic stop, or going through airport security.
You have a few options:
- Voluntary Surrender: Set up a surrender date by calling the Sheriff’s warrant squad or court. They’ll direct you where and when to turn yourself in. You’ll be briefly held until seeing a judge.
- Walk-in Surrender: Just show up at the local police station or sheriff’s office and let them know you want to take care of your warrant. Same process – they’ll detain you until your court appearance.
- Attorney Surrender: Hire a lawyer to arrange your surrender and represent you before the judge. This ensures the smoothest process and best outcome.
While scary, voluntarily surrendering looks much better to the court than being arrested against your will. It shows you’re willing to take responsibility for your actions. And when combined with skilled legal counsel, you have the best chance of pretrial release.
What Happens When You Go Before the Judge?
After you’re arrested on a warrant or turn yourself in, police will transport you before a judge for an initial court appearance. This is your first chance to address the warrant and (hopefully) get released from custody.
Here’s how it typically goes down:
- Judge reviews the warrant circumstances and charges
- Prosecutor argues why you should be held without bail
- Your lawyer argues for release or affordable bail
- Judge decides to release you OR set bail OR hold without bail
- If released, you’re free to go. If not, you’ll be jailed until your next court date
Having an experienced criminal defense lawyer in your corner can make ALL the difference at warrant arraignments. They know how to argue for your release and freedom.
Public defenders do their best, but having private counsel levels the playing field against the prosecutor. And remember – you have the right to hire your own lawyer!
How Can a Lawyer Help with Warrants?
Here are some of the ways a knowledgeable Westchester County criminal attorney can help if you’re facing an open warrant:
- Confirm validity – Verify the warrant is valid and actually for you. Could be a case of mistaken identity.
- Negotiate surrender – Set up your voluntary surrender to police/court.
- Recall the warrant – File a motion asking the judge to recall the warrant before surrender.
- Quash the warrant – In some cases, challenge the legal validity of the warrant and have it thrown out.
- Advocate for release – Argue to the judge for release on recognizance or affordable bail after surrender.
- Reinstate bail – If a warrant was issued for bail violation, ask the court to reinstate bail instead of holding you.
- Expedite matters – Speed up the process to get you before a judge ASAP after arrest.
- Cut a deal – Negotiate plea bargains or dismissal of old warrants/charges.
- Alternative sentencing – Argue for probation, treatment programs, or community service instead of jail.
Bottom line – having an experienced lawyer in your corner can make a huge difference in how bench warrant cases play out. Don’t leave your fate to chance!
What Happens If I Ignore a Warrant in Westchester County?
I’m gonna be real with you here – ignoring an outstanding warrant is NEVER a good idea. Here are some of the risks:
- Getting arrested at the worst possible time – at home, work, out with family, traffic stop, etc. Super embarrassing.
- Sitting in jail until your first court appearance – could be days or weeks. Not fun.
- Prosecutors less likely to cut you a break. They’ll argue to hold you without bail.
- Judges don’t like people dodging warrants. Could hurt your chances of release.
- Warrants never “expire.” An old one from 10 years ago can still be enforced.
- Getting denied jobs, housing, loans due to active warrant appearing on background checks.
My advice? Don’t let it linger. Take care of that warrant ASAP. The longer you wait, the worse it looks. A lawyer can help you face the music while protecting your rights.
FAQs About Westchester Bench Warrants
Here are some quick answers to common questions about bench warrants in Westchester County:
Can I get arrested on a Westchester warrant in Westchester if I’m outside the county?
Yes – Westchester warrants are entered into the NY criminal database, so police anywhere in the state can arrest you.
Do I have to pay bail to get released after surrendering on a warrant?
Not necessarily. The judge decides bail on a case-by-case basis. A lawyer can argue for your release without bail.
How long do bench warrants last in Westchester County?
They remain active indefinitely until cleared up. Warrants don’t expire – they can follow you for life until resolved.
What if I can’t afford a lawyer for my warrant case?
You have the right to a public defender if you can’t afford private counsel. But their resources are limited.
Can I get a bench warrant removed from my record?
Not exactly removed, but an experienced lawyer may be able to negotiate vacating old warrants through plea deals or motions.
Do I have to surrender on a Westchester warrant right away?
It’s definitely wise to address warrants ASAP. But your lawyer may buy some time by filing motions before surrender.
Dealing with an outstanding warrant is stressful, I know. But with the help of a seasoned Westchester criminal lawyer, you can take care of it in the smoothest possible way. Don’t let fear and uncertainty keep you from taking action. The sooner you address it, the sooner you can move on with your life warrant-free!
If you have any other questions, give me a holler. I’m always happy to help break down the legal mumbo jumbo into plain talk! Here’s hoping this guide gave you a good overview of how bench warrants work and what you can do about them. We got this!