A bench warrant is an order that a judge issues in a case. If you have failed to follow instructions from the judge, the bench warrant tells law enforcement to arrest you whenever officers see you.
This is different from an arrest warrant, which is an order from a judge that gives law enforcement the right to search your personal belongings or property because of suspicion that a crime has occurred. The bench warrant is directly related to some action that you failed to complete in your case.
Reasons for a Bench Warrant
Certain legal circumstances can lead to a judge issuing a warrant from the bench. Examples of such circumstances include:
- Failure to appear for an arraignment
- Failure to appear for a trial
- Failure to appear for sentencing
- Failure to pay a court fine
- Failure to follow the conditions of your bail agreement
- Failure to follow the rules of your probation agreement
- Being indicted by a grand jury
Other legal situations also can lead to having a bench warrant issued against you.
How Can I Clear the Bench Warrant?
Many times, simply completing the judge’s requested action will lead to them removing the bench warrant.
For example, if the judge issued the warrant in relation to your failure to appear for arraignment in a criminal case, you can have the warrant cleared by agreeing to appear before the judge for the arraignment.
Sometimes, it can be enough for your hired attorney to appear on your behalf in front of the judge, leading to a dropping of the bench warrant.
Other times, though, the judge may choose to have you go to jail, with or without bail.
Understanding Your Options
If you are confused by the issuance of a bench warrant against you, hiring a trustworthy defense attorney may help. You can ask questions and allow the attorney to negotiate on your behalf with the court and with prosecutors toward an acceptable outcome for your case.
It is possible that a miscommunication between you and the court led to the bench warrant. Other times, circumstances beyond your control can lead to an issue that results in the warrant.
Your defense attorney can explain this issue on your behalf, potentially clearing up the problem. Items that can lead to a miscommunication or a missed court date include:
- Having the wrong address to contact you on file with the court
- Missing a court date because of an accident or illness
- Having the charges against you improperly explained
- Not understanding the steps you need to follow to comply with the court’s orders
Treating the Bench Warrant Seriously
Any time a bench warrant is issued, it must be taken seriously. If law enforcement must take you into custody because of a bench warrant, it could lead to a dangerous situation for you or any loved ones who are with you.
Additionally, if you are driving and are arrested on a bench warrant after law enforcement pulls you over in your car, your vehicle could be impounded, leading to additional costs and hardships for you.
Ignoring a bench warrant can lead to additional charges being filed against you as well. We recommend that you are prepared to legally defend yourself, especially if circumstances beyond your control led to the reason you missed your court date.
A defense attorney can help you understand the serious nature of this type of warrant.
Learning About Issuance of a Bench Warrant
If a warrant has been issued against you by a judge from the bench, consider taking proactive measures. It is possible the warrant was issued in error, but you still should not ignore it.
By turning yourself in before you are arrested, the judge may be more willing to listen to your description of the events that led to the missed court date, drug test, or other court-ordered action you failed to complete. Your attorney can help you with these steps.
Many counties in Pennsylvania will allow you to check on the status of active bench warrants. You or your attorney may be able to call the local sheriff’s department or check the county’s website to check the status of a potential bench warrant.
Avoid Further Problems
Consider hiring a defense attorney to help you take care of your bench warrant well before it results in an arrest. The right lawyer can negotiate on your behalf, perhaps clearing the warrant before an arrest takes place. You may or may not have to appear before the judge, as the attorney can sometimes appear for you.
Call McKenzie Law Firm, P.C., for a free consultation about your bench warrant in Pennsylvania. We take pride in being accessible to clients who have hired us, responding quickly to communication through social media, text, phone calls, and email. Call us at (610) 680-7842 for a free consultation.