Although both arrest warrants and bench warrants can lead to someone being taken into police custody, they are usually issued for different reasons, under different circumstances and are handled differently by law enforcement.
An arrest warrant is issued when law enforcement has a reasonable suspicion that an individual has committed a crime. In these situations, police officers will actively attempt to locate and bring the individual into custody.
In contrast, a bench warrant is issued by a judge, typically at a later stage in the criminal process. When a bench warrant is issued, law enforcement will not be dispatched to find the individual. However, if the police encounter an individual with a bench warrant in the course of their duties, such as at the scene of an accident or at a traffic stop, they will arrest the person at the scene.
Bench warrants may be issued for any number of reasons but some of the most common ones are:
Judges are given discretion to make decisions based on the circumstances of the matters before them. Although the above scenarios often lead to bench warrants, judges have the ability to issue more standard arrest warrants when the situation is serious enough.
Since law enforcement will arrest anyone with a bench warrant that they encounter, it’s generally best (and safest) to have an attorney check for bench warrants on your behalf. An attorney can check with the county clerk, local court or sheriff’s office to see if a bench warrant has been issued against their clients without needing to reveal their location.
If you or a loved one have or even just suspect that you might have a bench warrant issued against you, it is important to talk with an attorney immediately. Attorneys can help in several ways:
Regardless of the outcome, it is important to have proper legal representation when dealing with bench warrants. Experienced lawyers know the legal system and can help explain the possible choices and outcomes that are in front of you, empowering you to make the decision that makes the most sense for you and your situation.
At the Claiborne Firm, we’re here to help and advocate for you. To benefit from our experience and expertise, please use the form below to contact us.