What Is a Bench Warrant?

A bench warrant, also called a “body attachment,” is the most common type of warrant issued in the state of California. These warrants are issued by a judge, but not for suspected criminal activity. Judges generally issue bench warrants because an individual failed to appear in court for an arraignment, pay a fine, or obey a court order. After a bench warrant has been issued, law enforcement officers can arrest the person named in the warrant and bring them directly to court.

What Is the Difference Between a Bench Warrant & a Regular Arrest Warrant?

With an arrest warrant, police must first file a statement with the judge that explains the probable cause they have to suspect that person named in the warrant has committed a crime. If the judge agrees with the officer’s reasoning, they will sign the warrant and the police can make the arrest.

Is It Possible to Drop a Bench Warrant?

Most courts in California are reluctant to recall or drop a bench warrant on their own. If you are subject to a bench warrant, you will need to put in some work to get it cleared from California’s judicial system. To recall the warrant, you must appear in court. An attorney can appear on your behalf if you failed to show up to a court appearance or failed to pay a fine for a misdemeanor offense. If you failed to obey a court order for a felony case, then you must be present in court, either with or without an attorney, to clear the bench warrant.

In order to recall the bench warrant, you will need to convince the judge of one of the following:

  • You never received a notice to appear in court
  • You complied with all the conditions and requirements within the court order
  • You were unaware a case had been filed
  • Your identity has been mistaken

How Long Do You Stay in Jail for a Bench Warrant?

A bench warrant in and of itself does not carry any jail time, however, you can be held in custody until you face a judge. In California, you must be brought before a judge within 48 hours. At that time, you will be given the option to post bail. If you are unable  to post bail you will be held in custody until the time of your trial, which could be several months.

Does a Bench Warrant Expire?

Bench warrants issued in California do not expire and remain in effect until the person named in the warrant dies or the judge decides to recall it.

What Are the Penalties for Failure to Appear in Court?

If you fail to appear at a scheduled court date for a misdemeanor, the prosecution will charge you with an additional misdemeanor. If you are found guilty of the failure to appear charge, then you can face a maximum fine of $1,000 and a maximum six-month county jail sentence.

If you fail to appear at a scheduled court date for or a felony case, the prosecution will charge you with an additional felony. If convicted, you can face a minimum fine of $5,000 and a county jail or state prison sentence.

Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP is here to help you make sure your rights are protected if you are facing a bench or arrest warrant. Please call our Ventura criminal defense attorneys today at (800) 462-7160 or contact us online to request a free case review.