Criminal bench warrants are pretty common in Arizona, especially bench warrants issued in misdemeanor cases. Judges issue a bench warrant to force people into court after they have missed a court date, failed to respond to a court summons, or failed to complete a court ordered sentence. Some people with misdemeanor bench warrants don't even know that there's a warrant out for their arrest. A summons mailed to a defendant's old address, for example, will probably never be received by the defendant. When the defendant does not appear in court, a warrant is usually issued.
Life is no fun with a bench warrant hanging over your head. You are a technically a fugitive from justice, even if the underlying case involves a minor offense. You never know if or when the police will come knocking at your door or you'll be taken into custody after being pulled over for a minor traffic violation. Moreover, an outstanding warrant is often a matter of public record. A warrant on your record may harm your reputation or prevent you from getting a job.
If There Is a Bench Warrant for Your Arrest, Are You Going To Jail?
So if a bench warrant has been issued for your arrest, what do you do? The answer depends on the decisions you make. If you do nothing, chances are that you'll eventually be taken to jail. The police usually don't go out looking for people with misdemeanor warrants, although they will occasionally conduct "warrant roundups." More often, though, you will have some kind of contact with the police--maybe you get a traffic ticket or you're in a car accident-- who will discover the warrant and take you to jail.
If you take the right actions, however, you should be able to avoid arrest and jail for a misdemeanor bench warrant. There are a couple of options. One option is warrant court. Most misdemeanor courts in Arizona hold warrant court on certain dates or times. This is when people with outstanding warrants can come to court and get their warrants quashed. You can usually do this without having to go to jail but there are circumstances where a judge might take you into custody. The Tucson City Court and Pima County Justice Court occasionally hold special "warrant days" on the weekend to make it easier for people to attend. Another option is hiring an attorney.
Hiring an Attorney to Quash Your Bench Warrant
If you find out you have a warrant, you might decide to hire an attorney to handle it for you. This is an especially good option if you don't live near court and can't attend warrant court. An attorney can usually file a motion to quash the warrant and explain the circumstances of your non-appearance or failure to comply with a court order. The fact that you've hired an attorney shows the court that you are serious about resolving your case. If the warrant can be quashed by motion, then you avoid the risk of going to jail. An attorney can also appear in court for you in many misdemeanor cases.
Court usually don't want to send people to jail for a misdemeanor warrant. They just want to resolve a problem in the case that requires the defendant's presence. If you take voluntary action to resolve the warrant, personally or through an attorney, you can usually avoid jail. If you don't, the warrant will catch up to you eventually.
* This blog is published by Tucson DUI and criminal defense lawyer Nathan D. Leonardo. Nothing on this website is intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided herein does not constitute legal advice, but is for general information purposes only. If you have a legal question, you can contact us online or call (520) 314-4125.