Do Bench Warrants Expire in Utah?

Salt Lake City criminal lawyer

While a bench warrant doesn’t expire, Utah’s courts are required to periodically review unexecuted warrants to determine whether they should be “recalled,” which means review if it’s complete and executed or if it needs reinstatement. A bench warrant is a judicial order signed by a judge authorizing the arrest of a person charged with a crime. The Utah code doesn’t specify an “expiration” date for a bench warrant. However, there are constitutional limitations for executing a search warrant.

Whenever a client is arrested on the basis of a bench warrant that has been outstanding for an extended period of time, my advice is to seek immediate evaluation by an experienced attorney in the attending jurisdiction. Here, Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer Darwin Overson explains the intricacies in Utah’s law regarding the time limit for execution of a bench warrant. Call (801) 823-6912 if you have further questions about a bench warrant issued against you or someone you love.

Overview of Bench Warrants

Bench warrants are essentially arrest warrants judges issue from their bench. They are commonly granted when criminal defendants fail to appear to a court hearing or is in “contempt” of court for failing to comply with a previously issued judicial order such as a “protective” or restraining order. If the violation is in relation to a probatory period or sentencing agreement, the court will issue what is known as an “order to show cause” for a judge not to revoke the probation or any favorable sentencing terms.

The most common bench warrants include:

  • A grand jury indictment
  • Failure to pay a court fine on time
  • Failure to appear in court for an arraignment, trial, sentencing or other required court appearance
  • Failure to adhere to probation conditions

Fighting an Arrest Warrant in Utah

Regardless of the date when a bench warrant is issued, there are fundamental requirements that if violated, will always render an arrest warrant invalid. A magistrate judge in Utah is required to issue a bench warrant based on facts that must be “sufficient” to establish a “reasonable belief” that the criminal defendant committed an offense.

Some courts apply a less rigid standard. Utah courts apply a standard of reasonable belief, as defined in State v Clark (2001), where the Utah Supreme Court enunciated the standard for the reasonable belief basis for supporting an arrest warrant stating that:

“We see no principled basis for attempting to maintain a distinction between the arrest warrant probable cause standard and the preliminary hearing probable cause standard … This reasonable belief standard has the advantage of being more easily understood while still allowing magistrates to fulfill the primary purpose of the preliminary hearing, “ferreting out . . . groundless and improvident prosecutions.”

Utah’s highest court expects the authorities to provide magistrate judge’s with concrete information that can include affidavits and sworn testimony regarding the offense and identifying information. Whereas the requirement is not as high as the standard as required at the point of a criminal trial, where the prosecutors have to show guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” an arrest warrant needs to be supported with relevant and timely information. If the information for the warrant was groundless or obtained recklessly can be challenged at any point. With the help of a skilled attorney, you can challenge

Bench Warrant Expiration in Utah

Depending on the charges you are facing, a court may renew and reissue a warrant anytime. The criminal charges filed against you may have a limited life-span based on statutes and on whether there was “probable cause” for issuing the warrant.

A warrant is valid if the criminal charges are still within the time limit known as “statute of limitations,” which is the maximum term a court can file charges against a criminal defendant. For example, if there is an outstanding arrest warrant for misdemeanor theft, it’s invalid if it’s over the required two-year statute of limitations.

What Should You Do If You Have an Outstanding Bench Warrant?

Anyone who has an outstanding bench warrant in Utah should talk to an attorney to discuss all the available options. There is a wide variety of factors depending on the underlying criminal charges. The outcome of a hearing on an outstanding bench warrant will depend on the status of the case when the warrant was approved by a magistrate judge.

If the warrant relates to a pending case and a violation of the conditions of a plea agreement, you have a right to a trial and to all Constitutional protections you’re entitled throughout any criminal procedure.

In most cases, you have the option of posting bail or a bond or asking for a hearing and asking the judge to “recall” the warrant. Your attorney can guide you as to the best course action depending on the circumstances. In order for a judge to recall a warrant, you need to provide good reasons and compromise by the terms of the order you are accused of violating.

Utah Bench Warrant Attorney Darwin Overson Can Help

If there is a warrant for your arrest in a new criminal case, a judge will typically want to learn that you are not a flight risk and that you don’t present a risk to the community by being released on bail or other conditions. Your Utah criminal defense attorney can advocate on your behalf on this issue and, for example, relay to the court why you play a role at your job and community. If there is an outstanding warrant against you for failing to pay traffic violation or any other fine, you should contact an attorney immediately. Don’t let a blemish in your record turn into a complicated case putting your liberty and reputation at risk.

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