Bench warrants are common for defendants who fail to appear in court or those who violate probation terms. It can be hurtful to learn that a judge has granted a bench warrant on you. Unless you have neglected to appear before a judge for a significant criminal violation, a bench warrant will not allow the police to apprehend you at home. Nevertheless, it might lead to varying consequences.
We at the Phoenix Criminal Attorney will work with you to ensure you get a resolution to the warrant. Get in touch with us today if you have a bench warrant issued against you or are facing any criminal charges in Phoenix, Arizona.
What is a Bench Warrant in Arizona?
When an individual fails to appear for an appointed court hearing, a bench warrant is issued. The judge permits police officers to arrest the person named on order due to the "Failure to Appear." An individual might also receive a bench warrant for violated probation.
The primary purpose of the bench warrant is to compel the offender to appear in court. One option would be to oblige by going to court. The police can also receive the permit to arrest the individual and keep them in detention until they go to court.
Difference Between Bench and Arrest Warrants
The person who issues the warrant is the critical distinction between bench and arrest warrants. A judge issues a bench warrant, while a police officer issues an arrest warrant. An officer will release a statement to a judge in an arrest warrant describing why he or she feels the person mentioned in the warrant has committed a criminal act.
If the judge consents that there is substantial cause to arrest the person, the warrant will be issued, and the police will be able to make an arrest. The police will now have the authority to turn up at the person's doorstep and arrest them. Sometimes, this order might include searching the defendant's property.
Finding Out If You Have a Bench Warrant in Arizona
If any of the following scenarios apply to you, there are chances that you have a warrant against your name:
- You failed to appear in court
- You disobeyed a judge's directives
- You defied court orders or broke your probation
- You have been unable to submit child support
- You didn't show up for jury service
- You didn't take the stand as a witness in a trial
Several companies are out there to help individuals find out whether they have bench warrants against their names. There is no need to spend money on such avenues, yet you can obtain this information at no cost from various government agencies. Here are some options you can explore depending on your convenience:
An Online Search
You can conduct an online search on the Public Access to Court Information as it is among the most suitable ways to acquire a conclusive answer without a fee on whether you have any warrant against your name. Every Friday, the Arizona Judicial system updates information on the portal, ensuring that the information therein is always current.
All you need to do is fill in your first and last name together with your date of birth. If you have additional information like the case number, you can use it. If you know the county where the warrant will likely be issued, you can select it from the drop-down menu. However, you can leave out this alternative as it is optional.
Contacting The Arizona Department of Public Safety
The Arizona Public Safety Department (DPS) has a contact number dedicated to finding those who have outstanding warrants. You only need to submit your first and last names, as well as your birth date, to find out if you have any outstanding warrants and the county which issued them.
Call 602-223-2233 to reach the Arizona Department of Safety's warrant hotline.
Calling the Criminal Court Administration Information Desk
If you reside within Maricopa County, you can obtain similar information from their Judicial Branch by calling 602-506-8575.
Contacting the Local Law Enforcement Authorities
Most criminal defense experts advise against using this strategy since direct interaction with the investigative agency can result in unfavorable outcomes. Nonetheless, there might not be a lot of public data available on outstanding warrants depending on where you live in Arizona (or, more particularly, where such a warrant was perhaps issued).
If you can't obtain any information using the three techniques above, you can call local law enforcement agencies to see if you have any outstanding warrants. As much as you can inquire about warrants at your local law enforcement agency in person, it is not advisable for apparent reasons. If the warrant exists in Arizona, you may be detained immediately.
Working with a Criminal Attorney
Consultation with an experienced Arizona criminal defense attorney is also an excellent alternative for several reasons whenever it comes to determining if you've had a warrant in Arizona. On behalf of clients, criminal attorneys are in continual communication with state and county courts, and they know how to obtain the most precise information within the shortest time possible.
After you've discovered the state of the warrant, your attorney can assist you in determining what steps to follow to resolve your legal problem quickly and completely. A criminal attorney can often help by filing a motion to dismiss the warrant.
Effecting a Bench Warrant
If you have a bench warrant involving a misdemeanor, the police might not come to your doorstep to arrest you. However, if you have a warrant, then your driver's license gets an automatic suspension. When the police find you driving along the roads, then they will arrest you immediately.
You are likely to remain in custody until the court date. If you miss a court appearance in an Arizona criminal case while on bail, the court might forfeit the bond and place you in custody until your matter is resolved. The court is likely to retain it if you have posted bail, but you won't get your money back.
Getting Rid of a Bench Warrant
Whenever one has a standing bench warrant, there's always a constant worry of going to jail. The good news, however, is that you can clear it without going to jail. Depending on the circumstances of the case, you can resolve the issue without even appearing in court. Here are the steps you should take whenever you are ready to address your bench warrant:
Check your Mailbox
Whenever the court issues a bench warrant, you will receive their notification via mail. This notice will clarify the reason for giving the bench warrant, what you must do in compliance, and how to reach the court clerk if you have any questions. If your bench warrant is for a criminal charge, you will receive the notification in person and not through the mail.
Make a Call to the Court Clerk
You should call the court clerk and gather additional information before heading over to the courthouse. You might be able to settle the situation by paying the accompanying fine online or over the phone if you're fortunate. If you must appear in court, inform the clerk of your desire to meet with your lawyer before making the appointment for your court appearance.
Hire a Legal Representative
Get a legal representative if you ought to show up in court but are terrified of being arrested. Your attorney can manage to work it out so that he appears before a judge in your place. If that option is not possible, your lawyer can reach out to the court in advance to guarantee that you are not imprisoned. He will thus attend the court sessions with you to represent you legally.
Submit a Motion to Revoke the Warrant
Your lawyer can submit a motion to dismiss your bench warrant depending on mitigating circumstances if you've got a legitimate reason for not appearing in court (provided this is what contributed to the bench warrant). Should the court grant your petition, the presiding judge will revoke the warrant and set up another court date.
It is worth noting that it is often preferable to show up in court willingly rather than waiting to be detained, regardless of how or why you were issued a bench warrant. When people give themselves in, judges are significantly more compassionate, and this will also give your counsel an easy time getting from jail. The penalties will very certainly be substantially more severe if you wait until the time you get apprehended.
Consequences of Failing to Appear in Court
Based on the existing circumstances, a person who intentionally fails to attend a court hearing in Arizona may face a charge for Failure to Appear either as a First Degree or Second Degree.
First Degree Failure to Appear Classification
A Level 5 felony results from failing to appear for a court appearance in a criminal case. A Level 5 felony carries a maximum term of one year, six months in prison, and a $150,000 fine. However, a competent lawyer might manage to get the sentence reduced to 6 months imprisonment if the court determines extenuating circumstances.
Extenuating circumstances are events or aspects that justify a shorter sentence, like the defendant's young age, the recognition that the accused was subjected to unexpected or significant coercion, or any information concerning the defendant's character or personal history that the presiding judge believes justifies a reduced sentence.
People with prior criminal convictions facing a first-degree failure to appear charge may face harsher penalties. The number of previous convictions may determine the duration of the sentence.
Second Degree Failure to Appear Classification
In Arizona, the failure to appear offense in the second degree relates to misdemeanor and minor offense accusations. A petty crime is a violation that carries a fine but no possibility of jail.
When the police in Arizona arrest a person for a misdemeanor or minor infraction, the officer has the option of releasing him and ordering him to show up in court at a later day rather than detaining him. The officer drafts a written notification to appear before a judge and a criminal charge and a pledge to appear, which the defendant must sign. It is crucial to schedule the appearance day within the first five days of detention.
If the individual does not honor his promise of appearing in court, he can face a Failure to appear charge in the second degree, a Class 2 infraction. In Arizona, the Class 2 misdemeanor carries a maximum term of four months in a non-jail institution and a fine of up to $750.
Missing a court date for a misdemeanor or minor offense charge could lead to a Class 1 or 2 misdemeanor. The default offense is a Class 2 misdemeanor, which carries a maximum term of four months in imprisonment and a limit of $750 in fine. Suppose you miss an additional court appearance after facing the Failure to Appear charge in the Second Degree. In that case, the court can upgrade the case to a First Class misdemeanor, which has a potential penalty of six months imprisonment and a $2,500 fine.
Are There Possible Defenses for Failure to Appear?
Unlike other crimes, the defenses for Failure to Appear are pretty limited, considering that the basis for this charge is that a person intentionally fails to honor a court session.
Even if a person receives proper notification of a court appearance and does not show up due to circumstances beyond his control, like hospitalization or a car accident, he could still be found guilty. This is because he still missed the court hearing while knowing beforehand of the scheduled date.
Suppose you miss court and have a legitimate reason (such as a vehicle accident, hospitalization, or the demise of a family member). In that case, you must notify the court as soon as possible and make a motion to revoke the warrant. Don't wait for the warrant to be served. If you wait for the police to come and arrest you and present you to the court, the probability that the judge will sympathize with your plight is very low.
Handling Out-of-State Bench Warrants
A bench warrant is more of authorization from the court to the police to arrest an individual and bring them to court at a scheduled time. A record of all warrants is within the database of the National Crime Information Center, NCIC, and any law enforcement agency can access this information.
Whenever you give the police your identifying information for whichever reason, they can easily see the warrants under your name. This can lead to extradition with the immediate effect depending on the type of offense committed.
A misdemeanor is a lesser offense in comparison to a felony. Many minor infractions are regarded as crimes. Misdemeanor charges, such as drug possession or driving under the influence, differ with each state.
The state in which you received the bench warrant may refuse to extradite you. But that's not a risk you're willing to accept! The police are often eager to deport you from whatever state if the allegations against you are serious.
Now, if you discover that you have a bench warrant from a different state, the best thing to do is reach out to the state and, more specifically, the court that gave the warrant. Arizona will thus extradite you to that state.
A rider can accompany out-of-state bench warrants for offenses. The rider specifies the conditions whereby the issuing entity will assist in your extradition. Riders may select a region (for example, the Pacific Northwest) or a group of states (Arizona, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, for example).
In other instances, you might get a bench warrant from a county within the state that you no longer reside in. For example, you could be living in Pima County, yet you receive a bench warrant from Maricopa. Your attorney will confirm the details of the warrant and probably file a motion to resolve it.
Duration of a Bench Warrant in Arizona
Whenever a bench warrant is made, it remains in effect until the person is taken before a court. This implies that although the bench warrant has lasted for weeks or months, it maintains its validity and will not expire with time.
If you are the subject of a current bench warrant, you must move immediately and consult with a competent criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The longer you delay to surrender or have the police locate and arrest you, the more serious the penalties will be.
Dealing with a Scheduling Conflict
Individuals who cannot honor their court appearance might request a postponement. When trying to move a court appearance, partnering with a criminal lawyer provides the best potential outcome. The most important thing is to follow the court's ruling. Whatever the outcome, people should make every effort to appear in court and prevent a bench warrant.
The legal ramifications of the missing court are even more severe than most other offenses. Rather than risking more problems, deal with outstanding charges as soon as possible, collaborate with the court, and avoid acquiring an Arizona bench warrant.
Find a Criminal Attorney Near Me
We invite you to contact the Phoenix Criminal Attorney if you find out that you have a bench warrant against you. Our attorneys will submit a request to revoke the warrant and make a bargain to assist you in surrendering to court. If there are other charges leveled against you, we will defend you and ensure your legal rights are protected and obtain the best possible outcome for your case. Call us today at 602-551-8092.