A bench warrant is an order requiring that you be taken into custody for failing to appear in court. Bench warrants are issued with bond amounts, meaning that if arrested on an outstanding bench warrant, you may post a bond to be released from jail.
Bench warrants are issued in misdemeanor cases. If you fail to appear for an arraignment, trial date, or any hearing where your presence is required, the judge will issue a bench warrant for your failure to appear.
If your crime is a criminal traffic offense with accompanying traffic citations, your driver's license will be suspended as well.
If you miss your court date, don't panic. It happens all the time. The best thing you can do is be active about getting the warrant resolved. Rule number one that every person with an active bench warrant must remember is that bench warrants don't go away with the passage of time. A bench warrant will remain open forever unless dealt with.
Many people come to South Florida and get arrested while on vacation. Once they bond out or are issued their written promise to appear (PTA), they return home. If they hire a criminal defense attorney, they do not need to go to court. You can waive your presence and empower your attorney to represent you in your absence (representation in absentia).
But let's say you go home and forget to return for your court date. The judge will issue a bench warrant. Now you may think, "well, I'm in California and it's just a bench warrant for some misdemeanor out in Florida. They'll never catch me."
You're right. They might not. As long as you live out your life promising never to apply for a loan, a job, a professional license, school, or social security benefits, you should be just fine. You can stop reading if you'd like.
Now, if you plan on doing any of these things, you'd better get that bench warrant taken care of.
If you are in the State of Florida with an active bench warrant, you risk being arrested every moment of every day of your life. A quick trip to the grocery store can land you in jail if you get pulled over for a traffic infraction. Once a cop knows that there is an active warrant, they pretty much have to take you into custody.
The good news is that bench warrants can be resolved. If you missed your arraignment date, a good attorney can easily persuade a judge to set aside, or dismiss, the warrant. The case will then be set for trial and the charges can be fought.
If the bench warrant was issued on a trial date, it may be tougher to simply get the warrant set aside, but if you sign a written waiver, an attorney can go to court and resolve the case with a favorable plea, resulting in the closure of both your bench warrant and criminal charges.
If you or a loved one have an active bench warrant in Miami-Dade or Broward, call me.