Bench warrants are a type of court order issued to bring an individual into court. In contrast to an arrest warrant, a bench warrant does not launch a criminal action – rather, it is issued because someone violated court rules, most often by failing to appear before the court as previously ordered.
Understanding Bench Warrants
Typically, judges issue bench warrants to individuals who failed to appear at a previously scheduled court date. Bench warrants do not expire, but remain active until the individual goes into court or the judge clears the warrant.
Here are some typical circumstances under which a judge could order a bench warrant:
- Child Support – If you’re behind on child support payments, a judge might issue a bench warrant to bring you into court to resolve the issue.
- Probation Violation – If you’ve violated one or more of the terms of your probation, you might have a bench warrant issued for you.
- Outstanding Fines – There might be a fine you haven’t paid yet or remaining restitution payments you have to make. A judge can issue a bench warrant if you’re behind on these repayments.
Bench warrants differ from arrest warrants in two key ways:
- Judges order bench warrants when someone fails to take action to fulfill their required court obligations, like paying child support. Judges issue arrest warrants when police wish to take someone into custody and need authorization.
- A judge can issue a bench warrant during an open court case. Arrest warrants are typically the first step in establishing a criminal case.
Generally speaking, the less severe the offense, the more lenient law enforcement can be about executing the bench warrant. However, you could face arrest and jail time while waiting for your court appearance if you have a bench warrant. Courts utilize bench warrants when they feel individuals aren’t taking the court’s rules and orders earnestly. It can indicate how serious the court is about the offense.
Immediate Steps to Take
Do not ignore a bench warrant. Ignoring the bench warrant can result in serious consequences, as the court may perceive your actions as disrespectful.
Instead, be proactive by taking the following steps:
- Contact a Lawyer – A criminal defense attorney can be essential to resolving a bench warrant. They can review the warrant and your original court summons and explain to the judge why you failed to appear. They can also work to “quash” (or remove) the warrant.
- Consider Surrendering – You can turn yourself in with a bench warrant, which can benefit you in court. Be sure to discuss this option with your lawyer first.
- Be Prepared to Pay – You may need to pay a fine or post bail when you surrender, depending on the reason for the bench warrant.
Legal Options and Assistance
It can be intimidating to deal with a bench warrant and its consequences alone. An attorney can be an asset to help navigate the process and the circumstances surrounding the issuance of the bench warrant.
A lawyer can present evidence and request that the court clear the bench warrant for several reasons:
- Mistaken Identity – If you’re not the correct person in the order and it is a mistaken identity, the court should clear the bench warrant.
- You Didn’t Receive a Notice – The court mails notices to an individual’s place of residence. If they send mail to your old address, you likely won’t know of an upcoming appearance. The judge could clear your bench warrant if you didn’t receive any notice that you had a court date and didn’t know that you had to appear.
- A Simple Error – There could be a clerical mistake concerning your initial court summons. If you have followed the court’s orders and requests and attended all scheduled court dates, the judge will likely recall your bench warrant.
- Emergency – If you didn’t go to your court date because of an emergency, like an urgent health issue, the judge will likely clear the warrant. You will probably need to provide documentation of the specific emergency to verify its legitimacy to the court. A lawyer can help you assemble this evidence.
Going to Court
You may need to turn yourself in if there’s a bench warrant out for you. Doing this with an attorney is helpful as they can inform you of the process. They can help you:
- Start the surrender process and coordinate your booking.
- Pay any applicable fees or fines.
- Prepare your next court appearance, emphasizing respectful behavior.
- Talk with court officials on your behalf.
- Gather documents to prove that your initial court absence was legitimate.
- Argue and explain why the bench warrant should be recalled.
A Las Vegas Bench Warrant attorney can help you manage a bench warrant and prevent it from impacting you in the future.
Preventing Future Bench Warrants
A lawyer can also help you avoid facing more bench warrants in the future. Here are some things they might advise:
- Track Your Legal Obligations – Show up for all mandatory court appearances on time and with the required paperwork.
- Follow the Rules of Your Probation – Maintain meetings with your probation officer and be aware of the terms of your probation.
- Continue Payments – Keep making child support or restitution payments and avoid missing a single payment.
- Stay Current – Update the court if your physical mailing address, phone number, or email address changes. You are responsible for ensuring the court can reach you for ongoing legal obligations.
Contact a Las Vegas Criminal Defense Lawyer
Bench warrants can be intimidating, and getting them cleared can be confusing. Resolving an outstanding bench warrant is attainable with skilled legal help. Choose the experienced Nevada criminal defense team with De Castroverde Law Group Criminal & Immigration to simplify the process and reduce stress. If there is a bench warrant for you and you need an experienced attorney, contact us today for an initial consultation.