Can Police Enter Your Home with a Bench Warrant in Utah?

If you have a bench warrant out for your arrest in Utah, you may be wondering whether it allows police officers to enter your home. A bench warrant is a warrant issued by a judge authorizing the arrest of a person – usually when they are stopped for another reason. They are issued when a person fails to appear in court, fails to pay a court fine, or fails to adhere to the conditions of their probation. A bench warrant only gives police certain rights, though. Continue reading to learn more about whether police can enter your home if there is a bench warrant against you in Utah, how to find out if there is a bench warrant issued against you, and how you can use the help of a Salt Lake City bench warrant lawyer to get a bench warrant cleared.

Do Police Need a Bench Warrant to Enter Your Home?

In the United States, our freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures by the police or other government authorities is of the utmost importance. While police may sometimes be able to enter a person’s home, a bench warrant alone does not usually allow police to enter your home and bring you into custody. However, a bench warrant allows police to bring you into custody if they stop you to investigate you for another reason, such as a traffic violation or DUI offense in Salt Lake City. Typically, police officers will not be knocking on your door to execute a bench warrant unless your underlying charges are especially serious. Instead, you may be arrested upon your next routine encounter with law enforcement or with the courts.

Bench warrants differ from arrest warrants because the police are not necessarily tracking you down to arrest you for a bench warrant. Instead, they tend to make arrests on bench warrants the next time they encounter you. This is often during routine traffic stops or if you were to go back to court for another case. For this reason, people may go for long periods of time with a bench warrant out for their arrest without knowing it. Different aspects of what a bench warrant is and why it is different from a search warrant or an arrest warrant help explain why this is the case.

Bench Warrants in Utah

Bench warrants are issued from a judge’s bench and are only issued if you fail to pay a court fine, fail to show up in court to meet with a judge for a previous arrest, or if you fail to comply with a previous judicial order. A missed court date can lead to a bench warrant for a missed arraignment, trial, sentencing hearing, or something else. A bench warrant for failing to comply with an order can include violating conditions set by probation. Bench warrants are not issued because you committed a crime; they are issued as a means of getting you to go to court.

If you are taken into custody for a bench warrant, you will be released on bail or kept in jail. Whether you are kept in jail or issued bail conditions depends on the likelihood that you will actually appear in court. If you are arrested on a bench warrant, you will likely only be held until your next court date. Do not expect to be in jail for any significant amount of time. Missing court by mistake may result in being re-released on bail, but intentionally skipping a court date may cause a judge to distrust you and may influence the judge to hold you in jail to prevent you from skipping again. Posting bail and still failing to appear in court is known as “bail-jumping” or “skipping bail,” which is a third-degree felony that can result in a jail sentence that lasts between six months and five years. It’s one thing to miss court, but skipping bail is taken far more seriously by the courts.

The Difference Between Bench Warrants and Arrest Warrants in Utah

Arrest warrants in Salt Lake City allow police to arrest people if they suspect that they have committed a crime. An arrest warrant is issued if police have probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and that that you committed the crime. Only certain circumstances allow police to arrest you without first getting a warrant: a warrant is not needed if you are caught drinking and driving, in the process of committing a crime, or are likely to flee, destroy evidence, injure someone, or destroy someone else’s property.

Arrest warrants originate from the police who are conducting a criminal investigation. They must draft the warrant and explain to a judge or magistrate the probable cause they have against you. A bench warrant, on the other hand, originates from the judge. It is not based on probable cause that you committed a crime but on the fact that you failed to appear for a court hearing or otherwise failed to abide by conditions set for you by the court. Bench warrants are not issued for committing a new crime but for failing to obey the court.

Bench warrants also face a few more limitations than a typical arrest warrant because they are a bit less serious or urgent. Arrest warrants may be executed any time the police may need to arrest you. If the police wish to arrest you at home, but you are only home after midnight, they may arrest you at a strange hour like one o’clock in the morning. However, bench warrants for a misdemeanor must be executed during “daytime hours,” which Utah statutes consider to be 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM. A bench warrant for a “nighttime” arrest, or sometime later than 10:00 PM, may only be issued for felony violations.

Do Bench or Arrest Warrants Permit Police to Search Your Home?

Police will need a warrant to arrest you in most cases, but they will also need a warrant to be able to enter and search your home. Search warrants are issued under different circumstances than bench warrants and arrest warrants. Police can get a search warrant if they have probable cause to suspect that you’re in possession of something illegal or evidence of a crime. Police can search your property without a warrant if you have given them consent to search your property, you are on probation, or there are emergency circumstances. Some emergency circumstances that allow searches include the belief that someone else’s safety is being jeopardized or that you’ll destroy evidence before they can get a warrant. Items within plain sight can be seized without a warrant as well.

Generally, if police have an arrest warrant and they wish to arrest you at the home of a third party, they must also have a search warrant for the third party’s home. However, if they wish to arrest you at your own home, they do not need the additional search warrant to enter. Instead, they only need probable cause to believe you will be home at the time they wish to arrest you. This rule was established by the U.S. Supreme Court in the cases of Payton v. New York and Steagald v. United States. This power to enter your home is limited, however, to your arrest. Once you are in custody, the police may not continue to search your home for evidence to use against you, though they can continue to seize evidence under other rules or with a search warrant.

Limitations on Search Warrants in Utah

Even when the police have a search warrant to enter your home and search for evidence or search for you, they are still very limited in how they may conduct the search. Search warrants, and any warrant for that matter, must be specific regarding what locations may be searched. A search warrant cannot simply say that police may search your entire house. Instead, the warrant must specify the precise locations where you or the evidence are likely to be found. For example, if a search warrant says that police may search your a barn or shed on your property, the police may not also search your home Additionally, police may only check places that you or the evidence are likely to be. If they are looking for you, police cannot do things like open drawers or small cupboards because you obviously cannot fit into these locations. Still, they may be able to check larger areas like closets.

How to See if You Have an Active Bench Warrant in Utah

It’s possible that there is a bench warrant for your arrest without you knowing it. If you suspect that there is currently a bench warrant out for you, it’s a good idea to check as soon as possible. Any time you missed a court date or never heard back about pending charges, it is likely there is a bench warrant you might not know about. It’s much better for you to find now that you have a bench warrant than it is to find out when you’re already arrested.

You can find out if there’s a bench warrant out for you by using the search tool offered by the Utah Department of Public Safety, which is hosted on their website. Another way to find out is to call the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification. You can also call your county’s clerk of courts. Do not be afraid to reach out about your own bench warrant. Calling the courts or contacting some other government agency or office will not automatically trigger your arrest. With the help of a Lehi criminal defense attorney, you may be able to have your court date rescheduled and the bench warrant dropped.

If you find out that there is a bench warrant for your arrest, you should get in touch with an attorney immediately. An attorney can help you figure out what to do to clear the warrant. To clear a warrant, you may have to schedule a new hearing before a judge and ask them to recall it. Either way, you will still have pending charges for the underlying offense that you also might need an attorney to help you with. Remember, clearing the bench warrant does not get you off the hook for the underlying charges. You will still have to attend future court dates and potentially go through a criminal trial.

Bench Warrant Attorney Darwin Overson is Available to Help

If there is a bench warrant for your arrest – or if you suspect that there is one – don’t waste any time getting it cleared. If you let your bench warrant stay on record, you could make yourself susceptible to arrest at any time. Bench warrants should not be disregarded or ignored as they can land you in jail until your next court date. An attorney can help you figure out if you have a bench warrant and how to get it taken care of. Get in touch with an experienced Salt Lake City criminal defense attorney from Overson Law to help you get your bench warrants cleared today. Call (801) 758-2287 today to set up a free, confidential consultation.