In Miami-Dade and Broward County, it is common to get a bench warrant or alias capias if you have been issued a PTA (promise to appear) or any type of written notice to appear and you do not appear for your first court date.
Your first court date, also known as your arraignment, is usually set 30-40 days after you are issued your written notice. Since you have not been physically arrested (although make no mistake about it, the issuance of a criminal citation is a legal arrest) you will either be mailed a court notice or given a court date by the officer issuing you the notice.
All too often, the notice to appear in court goes to the wrong address or the officer gives you incorrect court information.
It is not until months, sometimes years later, that the accused learns that they have a bench warrant due to their failure to appear in court. Perhaps they have moved to another state. Maybe ten, even twenty years have gone by.
A warrant must be cleared up as soon as it’s discovered. An outstanding warrant is a public record and will come up in background searches for employment as well as applications for social security and other public benefits. In fact, social security benefits, VA benefits, and most public assistance will be denied to anybody with an active warrant.
A bench warrant is issued by the court, which means that if pulled over in Florida or even in another state, you could be arrested and transported to Miami-Dade or Broward (depending on where the warrant was issued) since a judge has issued an order that you be brought before the court.
Misdemeanor bench warrants and alias capias’ are resolvable. In fact, you may not even have to appear in court in order to have your warrant quashed, or set aside.
Sometimes the Miami-Dade Police and Broward police agencies will do "warrant sweeps" where they go through their database of active warrants and they will go out and try to find the defendants. Police can come to your home, your place of business, or anywhere you may be. When they find you, they must take you into custody.
Misdemeanor bench warrants have bond amounts attached to them. If you are taken into custody, you may post a bond.
Common misdemeanor bench warrants are for posssession of marijuana, petit theft, and trespassing, since most of those arrests result in promises or notices to appear as opposed to physical arrests.
You can check to see if you have an active bench warrant in Florida online by checking with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Eric Matheny is a Miami bench warrant attorney and Broward bench warrant attorney assisting clients in resolving their active warrants. Most of Eric Matheny’s clients have not had to appear in court for their warrants to be resolved.