Arrest Warrants vs Bench Warrants

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If you have an open warrant, it means that you may be arrested by a law enforcement officer for a specific legal violation. While it may be tempting to try to dodge arrest by hiding or running away, this can have very serious consequences. Often, voluntarily turning yourself in or appearing before a judge to answer to the charges behind your warrant can have a much more favorable outcome. By working with an experienced criminal lawyer, you can have a thorough understanding of the type of warrant issued for you, the charges against you, and the wisest course of action for you to take.

Arrest Warrants

Most criminal offenses in California result in arrests by law enforcement officers who report to the scene of the crime or witness the crime. In some cases, however, time may lapse between the alleged crime and the identification of possible perpetrators.

An arrest warrant is issued when an individual is accused of a crime but was not arrested when the alleged crime was discovered or occurred. Such warrants may be requested by a law enforcement official or district attorney from a judge, and a specific protocol must be adhered to:

  • An official complaint must be filed with the court
  • Probable cause must be documented
  • The petitioner must make a sworn oral statement about the alleged crime

When an arrest warrant is issued, law enforcement officers are instructed to look for the accused person and place him or her under arrest. The defendant will be served with an arrest warrant that must contain specific information to be considered valid. If any of this information is missing or incorrect, an experienced attorney may be able to challenge its validity.

Arrest warrants are technically public documents, so it is possible for an accused person or his or her attorney to learn of the warrant before an arrest is made. If you believe you have a pending arrest warrant, it may be in your best interests to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can advise you on the wisest course of action. In some cases, individuals who voluntarily turn themselves in can avoid arrest and may be released until trial.

Bench Warrants

When a defendant is ordered to appear in court and does not show up, a bench warrant will be issued. This means that the defendant may now be arrested: either at his or her home or place of business, or if a law enforcement officer happens to come into contact with the defendant for another reason and his or her name appears in the database of open warrants (such as during a traffic stop).

While the most common reason for a bench warrant is a failure to appear at a scheduled court date, bench warrants may be issued for any transgression against a court. This may include failure to pay a fine or a failure to comply with other court orders.

As with an arrest warrant, individuals who have an open bench warrant may be well-served by working with a criminal attorney they trust. It may be possible for an attorney to schedule a new court date, and if the defendant honors that court date it may reflect favorably. In such cases, judges may reverse a bench warrant and release a defendant on his or her own recognizance, require that defendant to post bail before release, or even give the defendant a specific amount of time to post bail before a new warrant is issued.

If an arrest warrant or a bench warrant has been issued for you in the Los Angeles area, the best way for you to feel confident in a just outcome for this situation is to enlist the support of a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney. Vitaly Sigal, founder of the Sigal Law Group, has deep experience in representing individuals who have been charged with criminal offenses and a strong reputation in local state and federal courts. To learn more about your rights, contact Attorney Sigal to schedule a criminal defense consultation.