Orange County Bench Warrant

In California, ‘the bench’, meaning the judge, can issue an arrest warrant, authorizing the police to take that person into custody, if that person:

  • Fails to obey a court order to appear in court,
  • Fails to pay a fine,
  • Fails to obey any other order issue by the court,
  • Disobeys an indictment by a California grand jury

Such a warrant is called a bench warrant or ‘body attachment’, and unlike a normal arrest warrant, it’s not issued as a result of a criminal activity. A bench warrant is issued for ‘contempt of court’, and can attract several penalties including:

  • Time in state prison or county jail
  • Fines
  • Suspension of driver’s license and other licenses
  • Probation violation

For example:

The court can issue an order for you to appear in court for failing to pay child support. If you ignore the order, the judge has the authority to issue a bench warrant which will lead your arrest and a subsequent charge of contempt.

After the arrest: The Bail process

After being arrested, the court will set a bail amount, which will cover court costs, fines and any charges pending on the original offense. The investigating officer can petition the court to increase your bail, particularly in cases where you have violated California Penal Code 422 PC for criminal threats and the officer doesn’t believe the person you threatened will be safe.

You will be held in custody until you pay the bail.

Getting your name cleared: recalling a bench warrant

In order to quash or recall a bench warrant, you or your attorney, must appear before the judge. If the warrant is issued as a result of disobeying a court order related to a felony offense, you must appear with your attorney in court.

California bench warrants have time restrictions. If too much time passes after issuance, this violates your right to a speedy trial and your attorney can ask for a dismissal if the state cannot provide just cause for the delay.

Presenting yourself to court instead of waiting for the police to arrest you will save you a lot of embarrassment. This, however, can work against you even when you had a legitimate reason for disobeying a court order. If the judge distrusts your explanation, whether true or not, you could be taken into custody. Of course, you should go to court accompanied by your lawyer, as she knows how to present your arguments in order to secure your release, get the bail amount reduced, or have the warrant and associated charges altogether dismissed.

Some of the defenses that your lawyer can use include:

  • You did not receive a court order because it was sent to the wrong address
  • You have fulfilled probation requirements but you were not aware that you needed to appear in court to provide proof
  • You rightfully believed that the court had dismissed the charges against you
  • You were not aware that there was a case filed against you
  • You arrest is wrongful because it is based on mistaken identity
Your warrant can also be dismissed if rules for bench warrants are not followed

After a bench warrant is issued, the court clerk has to contact the appropriate agencies so that your warrant is entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). If this procedure is not followed and this subsequent failure:

  • Obstructs the bondsman from surrendering you to law enforcement,
  • Interferes with or hinders your arrest,
  • Results in your being released from custody,

The court should clear you of all charges and terminate your bond.

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