A bench warrant is a warrant for a person’s arrest issued by a judge (the “bench”). Most often these warrants are issued because a person failed to appear in court for an arraignment or other matter or because he or she violated a court order.

It is not uncommon for individuals to be unaware that a bench warrant has been issued. For example, a person who is arrested and released on promise to appear on arraignment, but who does not appear on the scheduled date will, in all probability, have a bench warrant issued for his or her arrest. That individual may not have appeared because he or she was not properly advised of the arraignment date, the arraignment date was changed but the arrestee was not informed, or the arrestee is unaware that charges were even filed subsequent to the arrest.

Example: Joan was arrested in Costa Mesa for misdemeanor trespassing. She was cited and released but was not advised of an arraignment date. Nine months after her arrest, the prosecutor filed a misdemeanor complaint against her. The prosecutor sent a letter to the address Joan provided upon her arrest advising her of the charges and arraignment date. But Joan had moved in the interim and the letter was never forwarded. She had no idea there were charges against her and she just presumed the case was dropped. When she didn’t show up in court, the judge issued a bench warrant for her arrest. Many months later, she was stopped on a speeding violation. The officer ran a records check and learned that she had a warrant for her arrest. She was shocked when she was arrested.

Joan would not likely spend any time in jail, but she does need to show up in court as soon as possible to have the bench warrant recalled. Since her alleged offense is a misdemeanor, she could hire an Orange County criminal defense attorney to appear for her. (On felony charges, the defendant must appear.) Her defense attorney can then enter a plea of not guilty on her behalf.

The other common reason a person finds a bench warrant issued for his or her arrest is when that person has violated a court order. Most often this is a violation of probation or failure to obey a court order such as paying fine or restitution. When a bench warrant is issued for violation of a court order, the warrant may be recalled by appearing in court and either curing the violation or by asking the court for a reasonable dispensation.  For example, if the warrant was issued due to failure to pay restitution, the court might be amenable to work out a payment plan. A defendant who is arrested for violating probation might be given another chance by the court to cure that violation. It is important that the bench warrant be addressed promptly by appearing in court (or, in some cases, having your attorney appear for you).

Learning there is a bench warrant issued for your arrest can be upsetting, to say the least.  But it needn’t be. These warrants are usually recalled just by showing up. The earlier you respond, the better. Honestly, bench warrants are routine for criminal defense attorneys and are easy to resolve.

Orange County criminal defense attorney William Weinberg offers a free consultation to discuss your criminal matter. He will advise you of his impression of your case and his assessment of the options available to you. You may contact him at his Irvine office at 949-474-8008 or by emailing him at bill@williamweinberg.com.