If you have an active bench or arrest warrant out for your arrest in the state of California, it's important to understand that you might be able to your warrant recalled and quashed without having to appear in court, post bail, or spend time any time in jail. The purpose of a bench warrant is to arrest and detain someone who failed to appear in court for any reason or they disobeyed a court order.
A judge could also issue a bench warrant when someone fails to provide proof of enrollment, progress of a court ordered program, failed to pay fines or restitution, or failed to appear in court for a traffic citation. After a bench or arrest warrant is issued, you are subject to arrest and detention after any contact with law enforcement in any county.
The legal process to recall or quash a bench or arrest warrant requires that either you or your attorney to appear in court where it was issued. The term “quash” means to have it cleared from California's judicial system.
If you failed to make a court appearance or pay a fine in a misdemeanor offense, or show proof or completion of a court ordered program, or pay a traffic ticket, then you lawyer can make the court appearance on your behalf to have the warrant recalled.
Individuals can be subject to bench warrants or arrest warrants for a number of reasons in California's criminal courts. Clearing these warrants without the defendant having to serve jail time is a common concern among clients and their family members. Incarceration, even for a short period of time, can result in loss of employment or other opportunities and can pose a substantial hardship for families.
This article discusses some of the ways that arrest or bench warrants can arise and how to attempt to clear these warrants without the defendant serving jail time. Our California criminal defense lawyers are providing a review below.
Arrest Warrants in California
Arrest warrants typically arise when a criminal case is filed against the defendant who was not arrested at the scene of the crime or immediately afterward. Many cases, especially those involving financial or computer offenses, take a significant amount of time to investigate.
By the time the prosecuting agency is ready to file charges in these cases, it is very likely the defendant will not already be in custody.
In general, law enforcement is only allowed to hold someone 48 hours in custody without charges being filed. In these cases, an arrest warrant will often issue with the filing of the charges.
Bench Warrants in California
Bench warrants, by contrast, tend to issue while a case is pending or when the defendant is on probation post-conviction. A bench warrant is an order by a judge to arrest the defendant because of some failure on the defendant's part to follow the court's orders.
The most common reason for a bench warrant to issue is because the defendant failed to appear in court on a required court date without a sufficient excuse such as hospitalization and without notifying the court.
Bench warrants can also issue when a defendant is on probation and the court receives information that the defendant has violated probation. This can occur because the defendant failed to provide a required progress report, such as for a DUI education class, a domestic violence counselling class, community service, or community labor, to the clerk's office by a required date.
Alternatively, probation could forward information to the court that the defendant has been arrested on a new offense or has failed to report to probation as required in the case of felony probation. In all of these cases, the defendant is immediately arrestable by any law enforcement officer.
Even if the case is relatively minor and law enforcement is not likely to devote resources to affirmatively tracking down the defendant who is subject to a warrant, the defendant will have to go through life with the knowledge that any traffic stop may result in an arrest.
Negotiation with Prosecutor and Self-Surrender
Clearing warrants is advantageous, especially when jail time can be avoided. The rule of thumb is that defendants who enter the courthouse through the front door are more likely to leave through the front door.
This aphorism embodies the practical reality that a defendant who attempts to evade capture and only appears after law enforcement tracks them down will not be viewed as favorably as one who shows respect to the court process by voluntarily surrendering on the warrant.
Prior negotiations between experienced defense counsel and the prosecuting agency can help facilitate this “self-surrender,” and increase the likelihood that the prosecutor will stipulate to an own recognizance release or a stipulated bail amount. Even if the defendant needs to post bail, it may be possible to obtain permission to let the bond be posted in court, thereby preventing the need for the defendant to go into custody before bailing out.
In the case of bench warrants, practice differs from judge to judge and courthouse to courthouse. In all felony cases, a defendant must be personally present for a bench warrant to be recalled.
However, in misdemeanor cases, some judges will permit an attorney representing a defendant to recall and quash a bench warrant without the defendant appearing pursuant to California Penal Code Section 977. This gives the defendant the advantage of not appearing in court and may be more convenient for clients who are out-of-state or have circumstances in their lives which prevent them from going to court.
Why Should You Retain a Lawyer?
If you have a bench or arrest warrant out for your arrest, you need to consult with our California criminal lawyers at Eisner Gorin LLP to review the details and options. If you voluntarily turn yourself in at the court, you could be taken into custody. Our attorneys can explain how you could clear your warrant and how we might be able to have the warrant recalled without you having to make a court appearance or spend any time in jail.
Even a bench warrant which issues due to a probation violation can be recalled if the court can be persuaded not to take the defendant into custody. This is another area in which experienced representation by a criminal defense lawyer is key to securing the best outcome. If you or someone you know has outstanding warrants which they would like to clear, contact our firm for an initial consultation.
Eisner Gorin LLP is a criminal defense law firm with a record of success. We are located at 1875 Century Park E #705, Los Angeles, CA 90067. Our main office is next to the Van Nuys Superior Courthouse. Contact our firm to review your warrant situation at (310) 328-3776.