What Is a Bench Warrant?
You might know a bench warrant by the more common term, arrest warrant. They’re usually issued by a judge for failure to appear in court, and they can be issued for offenses as small as unpaid parking tickets. The purpose of a warrant is the make you appear before a judge to explain why you failed to follow a legal directive. Any legal infraction for which a judge can issue a summons to appear in court is subject to a bench warrant if the person named in the summons fails to appear on the designated date. Examples include:
∙ Possessing an open container of alcohol
∙ Being in a public park after curfew
∙ Public urination
∙ Missing a court appearance
∙ Failure to pay fines
∙ Failure to complete court-ordered community service
There are two types of bench warrants: bond warrants and no-bond warrants. A bond warrant is applied to offenses for which bond is applicable. In such cases, you will be able to post bond to avoid jail time and have the bench warrant deleted from your record. No-bond warrants are issued for more serious offenses, and they will stand unless you appear before a judge and provide a reasonable explanation for your failure to appear or follow through on a court directive. Generally, the only valid excuses are incarceration or hospitalization on the date or during the time period in question.
Does it Matter If I Didn’t Know About a Warrant?
No, it doesn’t. If you received a ticket that had fines attached that you didn’t pay, if you were ordered by the court to pay fines or restitution and didn’t pay them, if you were ordered to perform community service and didn’t, or you were required to return to court on a certain date and didn’t go, you are in violation of the law. You should know that you are subject to arrest in such cases, and any tickets or court papers will state the consequences on them.
If you suspect that you have a bench warrant issued against you, you can find out in a couple of different ways. You can:
∙ Call the courthouse or police precinct in that jurisdiction and ask
∙ Look it up online by going to the local government website and entering your name into the search database by court or police precinct
What Happens If You Ignore a Bench Warrant?
If you have a warrant out for your arrest, you can be picked up and arrested by the police even if you aren’t committing a crime at the time. This can result in being brought before a judge immediately or spending the night in jail even if the original charge was a non-jailable offense. Such an arrest may lead to additional criminal charges, fines, and the possibility of jail time.
For example, maybe you were a passenger in a car that was pulled over by the police for a traffic violation. Even if you weren’t the person driving, the police still have the right to run your name through their database to check for open warrants. Say are the victim of racial profiling, as happens during an unprovoked stop and search when you were just walking down the street. Having an open warrant or being in possession of drugs or an illegal weapon will now be admissible in court even if the original stop and search violated your rights.
How a Lawyer an Help
It’s a bad idea to ignore a warrant. You will be caught eventually, usually when you’re just going about your life. You’ll be in a better position to negotiate and avoid more serious charges if you appear in court willingly rather than waiting to be arrested.
Due to the serious nature and potentially serious consequences of ignoring a bench warrant, you should always be accompanied by a lawyer when you turn yourself in. That way, you can ensure that your rights are protected. Being represented by a lawyer may also help you avoid jail time while the legal situation is being resolved.
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