A number of times prospective clients have called and asked questions about bench warrants. "Can an attorney go to court for me, without me being there?" "Will or can I be arrested?" "What did I do, which makes a warrant necessary?" These example questions, all legitimate, will be answered in this blog post.
"Warrants" have been around longer than the United States. The general definition of a warrant is a document issued by a legal or government official authorizing
the police or some other body to make an arrest, search premises, or
carry out some other action relating to the administration of justice. The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution requires that probable cause be present prior to the issuance of an unreasonable search and seizure warrant.
Warrants may not involve a search or seizure, however. Judicial officers can issue bench warrants for different reasons. Some of the most common reasons why a bench warrant is issued: (1) a defendant misses a mandatory court appearance; (2) a defendant faces a possible revocation of probation; and (3) a defendant fails to pay court ordered fines.
Bench warrants do not require suspicion of a crime having been committed. Typically, bench warrants involve open cases. Judicial officers issue a bench warrant and it authorizes law enforcement to arrest and detain an individual so that the open matter can be disposed of.
To clear a bench warrant, the defendant must appear before the court. In the rarest of cases, judicial officers allow an appearance without the defendant being present. Most of the time, defendants will need to be present. It depends on the particular case, and facts of that case. Some courts have different protocol, i.e. time limitations to appear (before 8:30 am at some courts). It may be necessary to consult with an attorney to answer questions specific to a particular set of facts.
Felonies, misdemeanors, and even traffic matters can result in the issuance of a bench warrant. In some cases, a driver's license hold is placed on the defendant too. Ignoring a bench warrant is extremely unwise and potentially dangerous to an effective defense. Far too many times, judges have scolded defendants for attempting to skirt the law.
If you, a loved one, or friend has a bench warrant, it is best to get a taken care of right away. Seek the consultation of a criminal defense attorney; most offer free consultations.