This article was updated: Feb. 1st, 2023.
Bench warrants are frequently issued by judges in California. A bench warrant is issued directly by a judge, unlike the search and arrest warrants that are issued only when they are requested by police departments and prosecutors.
How are bench warrants and arrest warrants cleared or removed in California? In other words, if a bench warrant or an arrest warrant is issued in this state with your name on it, what should you do? How can a Long Beach assault and battery lawyer help?
WHY ARE BENCH WARRANTS ISSUED IN CALIFORNIA?
Unlike arrest warrants, bench warrants in California do not necessarily order the arrest of someone for allegedly committing a crime.
Instead, most bench warrants are issued to order an arrest for one of these reasons:
1. failure to appear in court
2. failure to pay a fine
3. failure to satisfy some other court order
Any of these failures may be considered “contempt of court,” triggering a bench warrant and leading to:
1. a jail or prison sentence
2. a violation of probation hearing
3. a high fine
4. a suspension of your California driver’s license
WHAT IS “REMOVING” A BENCH WARRANT?
“Removing” a bench warrant means clearing it from the court system.
You and your attorney should both appear before the judge to have a bench warrant removed. If you have failed to appear in court or to pay a fine for a misdemeanor conviction, your lawyer may be able to have the warrant removed without your presence in the courtroom.
Like arrest warrants, California bench warrants must be served in a reasonable amount of time. If a warrant is not served promptly, your attorney may be able to have it removed.
Accompanying your lawyer directly to the courtroom is the best strategy for removing a bench warrant in California.
Of course, it is conceivable that a judge could still send you directly to jail from the courtroom, but your defense attorney will know what steps to take to either remove the warrant or to have you released on bail or on your own recognizance (“O.R.”) rather than go to jail.
HOW DO ARREST WARRANTS DIFFER FROM BENCH WARRANTS?
Arrest warrants are distinct from bench warrants. Judges in California issue arrest warrants for suspects who are wanted for crimes when:
1. Evidence of a crime is presented to a judge by a prosecutor or police officer.
2. A grand jury returns a criminal indictment against a suspect.
If you’re being investigated in connection with a crime, your defense lawyer may be able to gather evidence of your innocence, present it to the prosecutor, and prevent an arrest warrant from being issued.
HOW SHOULD YOU HANDLE AN ARREST WARRANT?
If there is already an arrest warrant with your name on it, accompanying your lawyer directly to the courtroom is still the best strategy. It wins favor with the judge – favor that may translate into some measure of leniency, including a lower bail or release on your own recognizance.
An experienced criminal defense lawyer will know what it takes to deal with an arrest warrant, what the court will require, and how to resolve quickly what can otherwise be a quite lengthy and complicated process.
If you surrender yourself for an arrest warrant in southern California, be sure that you are accompanied by a criminal defense attorney. Without your attorney present, you will probably be taken directly to the county jail.
HOW WILL A LAWYER HELP YOU DEAL WITH AN ARREST WARRANT?
It is not easy to have an arrest warrant “removed,” but if you believe that either a bench warrant or an arrest warrant was issued illegally or executed illegally, tell your lawyer immediately.
A qualified defense attorney will explain to the judge that you are in court voluntarily to deal with the warrant. Your attorney will ask for an O.R. release or reduced bail, and you probably will not go to jail for even one night.
It is always best to deal with a bench warrant or with an arrest warrant by going directly to court with your attorney.
WHY SHOULD YOU TURN YOURSELF IN – AND AVOID BEING ARRESTED?
While it is easier to have bench warrants removed – and while it is usually difficult to have an arrest warrant removed – it is always better to appear in court voluntarily to deal with a warrant.
Otherwise, you could be arrested – possibly in front of your children, neighbors, or colleagues – and you will have to appear before the judge in an orange jumpsuit issued by the county jail.
If you are arrested without your attorney present, you’ll be vulnerable. Anything that you say could be twisted and used against you.
Finally, it’s important to understand that if you turn yourself in for a bench warrant or for an arrest warrant, and you have any other outstanding warrant or warrants, you will probably be held in custody without bail.
WHEN SHOULD YOU SPEAK TO A CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER?
IF you are arrested for any reason in southern California – because of an arrest warrant, a bench warrant, or if an officer arrests you “on the spot” with no warrant – you must reach out and obtain the advice and representation of a reputable criminal defense attorney.
You must make that contact immediately.
If you are taken into custody on the basis of an arrest warrant – or with no warrant – your defense lawyer will launch an immediate investigation into the charge or charges against you, review the evidence, and develop the strongest possible defense strategy on your behalf.
WHAT IF THE POLICE VIOLATE YOUR RIGHTS?
If any of your rights have been violated during a police investigation, interrogation, search, or arrest, your lawyer will file a motion to have the charge or charges dropped. Of course, if you are innocent, you should vigorously contest the charge or charges with your attorney’s help.
In some cases, and especially if the evidence against you is persuasive and overwhelming, your attorney may negotiate a plea bargain on your behalf and recommend that you accept it. Usually, a plea bargain lets you avoid the harshest potential penalties for a criminal conviction.
You’ve just read a general introduction to arrest warrants and bench warrants, but every warrant is different, and every case is unique. You’ll need an experienced defense lawyer to explain how the law applies in your own case and to fight for justice on your behalf.
If you face any criminal charge in southern California – or if your name ends up on a bench warrant or an arrest warrant – seek a good attorney’s help at once. That is your right.