What should you do if you are served a bench warrant in California? Calling a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles should be first on your list. You should not try to navigate the legal system on your own. If you were served a bench warrant during other contact with police, such as being pulled over for a traffic stop, they may have arrested you already. Once a bench warrant is issued, any contact with police results in them looking your name up to see if you have any bench warrants.
If you think there might be a bench warrant with your name on it but you haven’t been served yet, you may want to check for warrants online. If you find a warrant has been issued, we offer the same advice – call a criminal defense lawyer. Do not go down to the police station and turn yourself in without a lawyer.
What is a Bench Warrant Anyway?
If you’re not familiar with the legal system (and let’s face it, most people aren’t), it helps to know exactly what a bench warrant is, and what it isn’t.
Bench warrants are the most common warrants issued. A judge issues bench warrants “from the bench” – hence the name. A bench warrant is not the same thing as a criminal arrest warrant, which a judge issues when someone is suspected of criminal activity, such as robbery, burglary, assault, etc. Judges typically issue bench warrants for a number of reasons, including:
- Failure to appear in court
- Failure to obey another court order (such as failure to pay court-ordered child support)
- Failure to pay a fine (including speeding tickets)
- Probation violation
If you are having trouble with transportation or illness and you might have trouble appearing in court, if you are having trouble paying child support and need to renegotiate terms, if your financial circumstances have changed and you are having trouble paying a fine, or if you’re having trouble meeting the terms of your probation, consult with an attorney to make changes. Don’t just ignore the court order or just fail to show up in court.
Failure to Appear
Failure to Appear warrants are very common. A judge issues a bench warrant for Failure to Appear if you fail to:
- Personally appear in court when required, for any reason, including testifying in a court case, reporting for jury duty, appearing at your own arraignment, pre-trial hearing, sentencing hearing, etc.
- Personally attend progress hearings while you are on probation
- Enroll and show proof of enrollment in court-ordered treatment or education (drug treatment, anger management classes, etc.)
Probation Violation Bench Warrant
A judge may issue a probation violation bench warrant if you are on probation for a previous criminal offense, and you have failed to follow the terms of your probation agreement. This is why it’s important to comply with the terms of your probation. If the court finds that you are not, the judge can call for your arrest for any violation. It doesn’t matter if you think something is a waste of time, or it’s inconvenient.
Common examples of probation terms:
- Enroll in and complete court-ordered programs (DUI school, drug treatment programs, etc.)
- Mandatory drug and alcohol testing
- Community service
Your continued freedom is dependent on you complying with the terms of your probation. If you have knowingly violated your probation, you could face arrest at any time.
Failure to appear, failing to pay fines or restitution, disobeying a court order or violating the terms of your probation are all considered “contempt of court.” A contempt of court case automatically triggers a bench warrant. If you’ve been served a bench warrant in California, you could face several penalties, including:
- Probation violation charges
- Enhanced (or raised) fines
- Suspension of your California driver’s license
- A county jail or California state prison sentence
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney
As you can see, the penalties could be pretty substantial. Applicable penalties vary depending on whether your failure to appear was in conjunction with a misdemeanor or felony charge. If you have been served with a bench warrant in California, call a criminal defense lawyer before you do anything else. Don’t talk to the police until you’ve talked to your lawyer.
A good criminal defense attorney may be able to help you quash a bench warrant. That means it is cleared from the judicial system. Your lawyer will be able to put forth reasoned arguments on your behalf that can get the penalties reduced.
If you need a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles, call the Simmrin Law Group at 310-997-4688 for a free consultation. We’re available to take your call 24/7. Don’t talk to the police until you talk to us.