Most people have heard the term warrant at some point in their lives, usually in the form of an arrest or search warrant. In California, there is another type of warrant that is quite common and could land you in jail: the bench warrant.
A bench warrant is an arrest warrant issued by a judge against a defendant, usually for failure to appear in court or failure to pay imposed fines and court fees connected with serious criminal matters or misdemeanor traffic offenses. The term “bench” comes from the traditional word for the judge's seat in the courtroom.
Failure to appear (“FTA”) warrants are the most commonly issued bench warrants. Failure to appear occurs when you do not appear in court after having been previously ordered to do so, either by a judge or a notice of mandatory appearance. Once the bench warrant is issued by the judge, your name goes into a statewide computer system that serves the entire law enforcement community. This does not mean the police will come to your house to arrest you, although that is possible. It does mean that if you have any contact with law enforcement, even if it stems from an incident that was not your fault, you can be arrested and taken into custody. Once arrested, you must post bail in order to be released.
Luckily for most defendants, there is a solution. If you know you have an outstanding bench warrant, it can likely be recalled without an arrest. Your attorney can appear before the judge on your behalf and usually get the missed court date back on calendar, and subsequently the bench warrant recalled so you can avoid any possibility of arrest.
If you or a family member have an outstanding bench warrant, or think you may have one due to a missed court appearance, contact Beahm Law today for a free consultation.