If you have failed to appear (FTA) in court, pay a fine, or obey a specific court order, a judge may issue you a “bench warrant” to arrest and detain you. This is not the same as an “arrest warrant,” which is issued due to suspected criminal activity.
A bench warrant authorizes police officers to make an arrest and bring you straight to court. In the courtroom, the judge will either release you with a warning or send you to jail, according to the circumstances of your warrant, your criminal history, and your flight risk (i.e. risk of fleeing the state/country).
Bench Warrants for FTA
If you intentionally fail to appear in court for a misdemeanor offense after being released on your own recognizance (OR), the prosecutor will charge you with another misdemeanor for FTA—on top of the one you already face. A conviction results in a jail term of up to six months and a maximum $1,000 fine. You will have 14 days from your appearance date to collect evidence to establish your FTA wasn't intentional.
If you intentionally failed to appear in court for a felony offense after an OR release, you will be charged with another felony for FTA. A conviction carries a state prison or county jail sentence and a fine of up to $5,000.
Bench Warrants for Failure to Pay
If you intentionally fail to pay a fine or restitution, you will be ordered to make the required payments. However, the judge can't punish you if you lack the financial resources to make the payment—only if you comply with other court orders.
Bench Warrants for Disobeying Court Orders
If you intentionally disobey court orders, you will be subject to a bench warrant. This often occurs when a person is placed on probation. For example, failure to report for drug testing or complete community service and classes will result in probation violation charges.
How to Clear a Bench Warrant in California
Commonly known as “quashing” or “recalling” a bench warrant, clearing one involves making a court appearance. If a party failed to appear in court or make a payment in relation to a misdemeanor crime, they can have their lawyer appear in court on their behalf.
However, if the bench warrant was for a felony offense, the party must be present in court.
A party or their attorney can do the following in order to quash a bench warrant:
- Argue the defendant never received the notice to appear in court
- Argue the defendant met all the conditions of a court order
- Argue the defendant was unaware of the pending case
- Argue the defendant is mistaken for another individual
Having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side can make the difference between walking away from the courtroom or serving time behind bars. Our legal team at Wilfert Law P.C. can collect evidence, create an effective defense strategy, and take steps to convince the judge to clear your bench warrant or release you on your own recognizance.
For more information about warrants in Ventura County, contact us and schedule a free consultation today.