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So You Face a Bench Warrant? What Should You Do Now?

If you have been advised that a bench warrant has been issued for your arrest, what can you expect?

First, it is important to understand what a bench warrant is and the reasons it might be issued.  A bench warrant is a judge’s order for the arrest of an individual to have that person present oneself in court.  It can arise in three main ways.  First, a bench warrant can only be issued when a person has been properly served with a summons to appear in court and thereafter fails to appear at the designated time and place.  Penal Code § 813(c). 

A bench warrant can also be issued when a judge ordered a person to personally appear in court at a designated time and place, but the person did not.  Penal Code § 978.5(1). 

Lastly, a bench warrant may be issued when someone is released from custody on his own recognizance (“OR”), on a promise to appear (i.e. when one signs a ticket) or on bail and is ordered by a judge or a person authorized to accept bail (a jailer) to personally appear in court at a specific time and place.  Penal Code §§ 978.5(2), 978.5(3) and 978.5(4).

The next step is understanding the proper way to respond to having a bench warrant issued for one’s arrest.  In our experience, having bail ready is prudent, so contacting a bail bonds company is smart.  The bail bond company will be able to tell you, if you do not already know, what the bail amount associated with the bench warrant is.  The bail bondsman (or woman) can then guide you through the necessary paperwork for being ready to post a bond to secure your release. 

Often, however, when the bail amount is low and the offense at issue is a misdemeanor, a judge will “lift the warrant” and discharge any bail if an attorney appears for the client and / or with the client in response to the warrant.  This does not always happen, however.  Certain judges and certain prosecutors may not be so accommodating, especially if the offense is serious or the client has a history or not appearing in court when ordered.

Lastly, is a police officer going to knock on your door to arrest you when there is a bench warrant for one’s arrest?  In the large majority of cases, the answer is no.  However, if the charges are serious, the police certainly can seek out the defendant.  Instead, it is more likely that a bench warrant will only be discovered during booking when one is arrested on another charge. 

In fact, many of our clients have even been stopped for traffic violations, had their driver’s license “run” on the police officer’s computer in his or her police car and allowed to drive off, perhaps with a ticket, but without being notified that a bench warrant was pending.  Sometimes, a bench warrant may linger for years before the individual is brought to court or even made aware of the warrant existing.

Once one presents oneself in court, a criminal proceeding may begin, which often means the arraignment takes place. 

For further information about whether bench warrants expire, what is an arraignment and specific issues concerning bench warrants, please consult the rest of the Greg Hill & Associates website.

Bench Warrant Articles

For more information about bench warrants and the bail that may be set with the warrant, click on the following articles:

  1. What Should I Wear and Bring to Court?
  2. What is Bail and Can it Be Reduced?
  3. Why Hire a Private Attorney?  Why Not Just Use the Public Defender?

For case summaries of selected cases our firm has handled, click here.

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