A bench warrant is a type of warrant issued by a judge when a particular individual fails to appear in front of the judge at a designated time. Aside from the reason the warrant being created, it’s the same as any other type of warrant. The police have the right to treat an individual with a bench warrant the same way they would treat any other warrant.
Bench warrants are most commonly issued on individuals that are bail jumping – people who made bail and refused to appear in court for their initial hearing. Jumping bail doesn’t just mean you’ll have a bench warrant issued. It usually means additional charges will be filed because failure to appear in court is a crime in itself.
A bench warrant gives the police the right to arrest you anyplace or anytime. They don’t have to respect the boundaries of your job or residency either. You could also be taken to jail if you’re pulled over for a minor traffic offense once the officer learns that you have a warrant.
By definition, a bench warrant is issued to give the police the right to bring you in front of the issuing judge; however, more often than not, the person is arrested and placed in jail until the judge has a clear enough schedule to see the person. That means a bench warrant could result in spending many days in a holding cell until the judge makes the time. This can result in missing important dates, getting fired from your job for being absent, and a variety of other consequences.
That’s why it’s best to handle the bench warrant before you are arrested. This puts control into your hands, and it allows you to plan accordingly.
Handling a Bench Warrant
Many people think they should simply turn themselves in once a bench warrant has been issued. This couldn’t be more wrong. People sometimes don’t even know what the bench warrant was issued for, so turning themselves in would be a terrible decision.
The best thing to do when you discover you have a bench warrant is to contact an attorney for legal advice. They can walk you through the process and help you learn how to clear a bench warrant. An experienced professional can discuss your options, help you strategize, and prepare your legal defense before you even turn yourself in. They can also speak for you on your behalf with the courts, and they are not legally required to disclose your whereabouts to the authorities.
Severity and Punishment
The punishment for failure to appear, which is officially known as default, varies from state to state; however, some things are standard when it comes to default. Typically, there is a misdemeanor default and felony default. The difference is that a conviction of felony default must come with proof that the defendant willingly fled, went into hiding, or evaded arrest. In most states, misdemeanor default carries a maximum sentence of two years; on the other hand, a felony can come with imprisonment of up to seven years.
This is what makes handling your bench warrant appropriately so important. The only way to properly deal with a bench warrant is by contacting an attorney as soon as you learn the warrant has been issued.