What is a Bench Warrant?
Basically, it is a warrant for your arrest issued by the “Bench” which means the Judge. Criminal Bench Warrants are issued when a defendant fails to appear in court or violates his probation. If you have a court date and you are either late or do not appear, you can rest assured that you will have a bench warrant issued against you.
When does the Bench Warrant go into effect?
In most cases, it takes a day to get the warrant into the system and have it active. Some courts will take longer than other and felonies and misdemeanors also differ on how quickly they are put into effect.
Will the police come looking for me right away?
For most misdemeanor charges, the answer is probably not. Most misdemeanor warrants will go into the system and will wait for you to get pulled over or have police contact and the warrant pop up. Although I have seen on occassion, police officers picking up a defendant immediately after a warrant was issued. On felony matters, the likelihood of being arrested soon after the warrant is much higher. Some of it depends on the seriousness of the charges and whether they believe you pose a threat to the community.
What happens if i am arrested on the bench warrant?
If you have an active warrant, you will be held in custody until you are taken to court. Once you are in front of the judge, you will face additional jail time/fines and/or other criminal sanctions.
Should I walk in and handle my warrant on my own?
If you like living dangerously, then this would be a good idea. It is much more advisable to have an experienced criminal defense attorney explain your situation to the Judge and Prosecutor. I’ve handled hundreds of bench warrant recalls and know what is a legitimate strategy for staying out of custody and what is not. While in court, sometimes i’ll watch a poor soul attempting to talk his way out of being taken into custody. Judges have heard all the excuses and lies, don’t think you can sweet talk your way out of the situation. You are only making the Judge more upset by insulting his/her intelligence.
What can an attorney do to help with a Bench Warrant Recall?
What we customarily do with Bench Warrants, is to first research the case. Interview the client and see what the situation is and are there any mitigating circumstances for the warrant (family illness/death, loss of job, etc.) Then we pull the file and read through what the case is about and what needs to be done. Armed with this information, we calendar the case up to a courtroom and speak with the Judge. Our priority is to keep our client out of custody.
I am afraid to be taken into custody.
There is always a risk that you will be taken into custody when you attempt to recall a warrant. But the risk is lessened considerably if you hire an attorney to handle your matter. Furthermore, when you voluntarily handle the matter (rather than being picked up on the warrant) the chances for you staying out get even better.
As a final word from Criminal Defense Attorney Anthony Arzili, if you have a bench warrant keep the following in mind. The sooner you deal with the warrant the better. Its almost always better to get legal representation from an experienced criminal defense attorney than to go it alone. Finally, its always better to voluntarily handle the warrant then to be escorted to see the Judge in cuffs.
Anthony A. Arzili