An “Arrest Warrant” is a legal document signed by a judge (or magistrate), authorizing law enforcement to take someone into custody. The judge will issue a warrant if there is probable cause (a strong suspicion) based upon the sworn affidavit of law enforcement that a crime has been committed and the person named in the warrant committed it. This is called an “Arrest Warrant,” and the law enforcement officer who sought and obtained it as part of a criminal investigation is now authorized to make an arrest of the person named. This process is there to protect citizens from having their freedom taken by the government without probable cause, a protection afforded by the 4th Amendment to the constitution. Any part of the process may be challenged, from the neutrality of the magistrate to the particularity of the affidavit.
The most common type of warrant, however, is called a “Bench Warrant.” This is also called a “body attachment” and is an order by a judge that someone be physically brought to court. This is usually ordered because someone failed to appear in court on a day that person’s case was to be heard. The difference is that the arrest warrant was sought by and obtained by law enforcement investigating a crime. The bench warrant is instigated by the court for failing to appear. Thus, an arrest warrant will be acted upon immediately by law enforcement who will find the person named and promptly arrest him/her. The bench warrant, on the other hand, may languish in the system for weeks, months, or even years until law enforcement comes in contact with the person named for some other reason. At this future time, the person may be arrested on the spot and brought before the issuing court as soon thereafter as possible.
Nothing can be done about an outstanding arrest warrant except to surrender to authorities, though the terms of such an arrest may be negotiated. But a bench warrant may be what is called, “recalled” and held, or “quashed” (nullified). If the underlying crime is a felony, then the defendant must appear in court for the warrant to be quashed. A misdemeanor warrant can be dealt with by an attorney representing the defendant, without the defendant’s presence in court.
Depending on the nature of the charges, a skillful attorney may appear in the defendant’s absence and have the warrant recalled and held until the defendant can appear. This means that the warrant will not be in the system and the defendant does not have to worry about being arrested prior to the next appearance date. The attorney may also be able to determine what the judge intends to do once the defendant does appear in court. This can be tricky because the judge will likely not want to commit to his/her plan of action. Most judges do not like to be “felt out” about what the punishment will be for failing to appear, and sometimes will do nothing at all without the defendant present in court. This judge may see the defendant’s sending a lawyer to court for him as a sign of cowardly shirking of responsibility. Another judge may take a more practical view and give a head up to the defendant as to what to expect to encourage him or her to return to court to proceed with the case.
If a bench warrant has issued in your case, Los Angeles Warrant Recall Attorney Peter Sebastian is experienced in courtrooms throughout Los Angeles and neighboring counties in dealing with warrants and getting them recalled and quashed whenever possible.
Links to Information for Anyone Charged with a Crime: