Bench warrants are a type of warrant that is issued when someone fails to pay a court fine, fails to appear in court when ordered to, or fails to adhere to the conditions set in their probation. They are issued from a judge’s bench and usually lay dormant until a person has contact with police for another reason, such as a traffic stop or DUI. Bench warrants do not expire and may last indefinitely. Since there is no statute of limitations on a bench warrant, you may be arrested for failing to appear at a court hearing from several years ago. Bench warrants are not always necessary for every defendant and it is entirely up to the judge whether or not to issue one. If you have a bench warrant, you can turn yourself in at any time, though you should seek the help of an attorney first. Keep reading to learn more about what a bench warrant is, how you can get yours resolved, and how Salt Lake City criminal defense attorney Darwin Overson can help you get your warrant dropped and address your underlying charges.
Dealing with a Bench Warrant in Utah
If you discover that there is a bench warrant out for your arrest, you can turn yourself in for as long as the warrant exists. Because bench warrants last indefinitely, there is no time limit on when you can turn yourself in. However, it is better to turn yourself in as soon as possible. Waiting a long time to turn yourself in on a bench warrant without an acceptable excuse will not be good for your case. However, the best thing to do after discovering that you have a bench warrant in your name is seek the help of an experienced Salt Lake City bench warrant lawyer who can work to get your bench warrant dropped, schedule a new court date for you, and address the underlying charges that led to the bench warrant.
Some people try to ignore bench warrants because they are afraid of the consequences. If you choose to ignore the bench warrant, you make yourself susceptible to more complications if you are arrested for a separate reason. You can either appear in court alone or with an attorney, although it will benefit your case to appear in court with a lawyer by your side. When you turn yourself in, you show the court that you have a low chance of being a flight risk, which means that it is not likely that you will be kept in custody. Turning yourself in will also demonstrate a willingness to take responsibility for your actions, which may influence the judge to show leniency when deciding things like bail. However, the way that the court treats you when you turn yourself in for a bench warrant depends on the seriousness of the reason for your bench warrant. Missing court for a minor misdemeanor charge may not be treated so harshly. But missing court for a serious felony offense is extremely serious and will not be tolerated by the judge.
What Happens When You Turn Yourself In on a Bench Warrant in Utah?
When you appear in court after learning about a bench warrant, there are a few things that can happen. You may be released with a warning, in which case your bench warrant will no longer be valid. You could also be incarcerated without bail, which means that you will be kept in police custody until your hearing with no chance of being released. It’s also possible that you could have bail set for you after appearing in court for your bench warrant. If you post bail and are released and then fail to appear in court, you will face charges for “skipping bail” or “bail-jumping,” a misdemeanor in Utah punishable by up to 6 months in jail or a $1,000 fine. What happens to you will depend on your case’s unique circumstances and the reasons for your bench warrant. If you can provide the court with a good excuse as to why you failed to comply with court orders, the judge may show you leniency.
If you appear in court with your attorney, they may be able to present an excuse for your initial failure to appear in court or failure to comply with a court order. If the excuse is acceptable, you may be released, or your bail may be set at a low amount. Acceptable reasons for failing to appear in court or comply with a court order include: the notice was sent to an address that isn’t yours, you had completed all of the conditions of your probation and weren’t aware that you still had to appear in court, you missed a drug test because you were ill or suffered an accident, or you were not aware that charges were filed against you. Remember, a good excuse is only good once. If you make a bad habit of missing court, a judge is unlikely to listen to any reason you may have and hold you without bail until your next hearing.
Why Bench Warrants are Issued in Salt Lake City
The purpose of a bench warrant is to give police the authority to take you into custody and be brought before a judge. They are issued from a judge’s bench and are given to people who have failed to comply with a previously issued judicial order, failed to appear in court following a previous charge, failed to pay a court fine, or failed to adhere to conditions set in accordance with probation. Bench warrants are often issued because the judge believes the defendant poses a danger to the community or is a flight risk.
If a bench warrant is issued against you, police do not have the authority to come to your home to arrest you. Bench warrants do, however, give police the authority to bring you into custody if you have been arrested for another reason, such as a DUI or traffic violation. Even a relatively insignificant encounter with a police officer that would ordinarily not result in an arrest, such as a routine traffic stop, may lead to your being arrested and brought back into court. It is better to seek the assistance of a Salt Lake City bench warrant attorney now and figure out your exact situation than to do so after being arrested.
Factors that Determine if a Bench Warrant is Necessary in Utah
A judge or a magistrate can issue bench warrants when defendants fail to appear for hearings or otherwise fail to comply with court orders. However, a bench warrant is not issued for every single defendant who breaks a rule. Judges understand when a defendant makes an innocent mistake or has a good reason for breaking a rule.
In these instances, a judge can issue a summons instead of a bench warrant. The summons is simply a notice sent to the defendant that they must show up for court because they violated a court order. It does not authorize the police to arrest the defendant. The defendant is instead trusted to show up on their own.
If a judge wishes to issue a bench warrant, they must first find probable cause that the person to be arrested has committed a crime. If no such probable cause exists, the judge may give prosecutors some time to come up with sufficient evidence to demonstrate probable cause. If the prosecutor fails to do so, the case may be dismissed, and the bench warrant will be unnecessary. If there is sufficient probable cause, the judge will consider whether the defendant poses a risk to the public or will not show up on their own. If this is the case, the judge may issue a bench warrant. If the defendant does not pose any risk to the public and is not a flight risk, the judge may instead issue a summons. Ultimately this decision is entirely up to the judge.
How to See if You Have a Bench Warrant in Utah
If you missed a court date and you suspect that there is a bench warrant for your arrest, you should check to see if it exists as soon as possible. It’s better to find out that you have a bench warrant now, when you have time to deal with it, than later, when it can complicate an already-stressful encounter with law enforcement.
If you would like to find out whether there is a warrant out for your arrest in Utah, you can find out using a few different methods. One way you can find out if you have a bench warrant is to use the search tool provided by the Utah Department of Public Safety. The tool is hosted on their website. You can also find out if you have a bench warrant by calling the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification or getting in touch with the clerk of courts for your county.
You should find out about any bench warrants for your arrest before you are arrested. Being taken back to court by the police will not look good to a judge or magistrate. If you discover you have a bench warrant out for your arrest, you should hire an attorney and bring yourself back to court. Doing so will demonstrate to the judge or magistrate that you recognize your own mistakes and are willing to take responsibility for your actions.
How to Turn Yourself In on a Bench Warrant in Utah
If you know there is a bench warrant issued for your arrest, but you have not yet been arrested, you may turn yourself in by showing up to the court that issued the bench warrant. However, it may not a good idea to turn yourself in without speaking to a Utah Criminal Defense lawyer first. Showing up at court does not mean your case will be heard that day in front of a judge. You may not actually see the judge the day you turn yourself in. Judges tend to have a hectic court schedule, so you will most likely be rescheduled to see the judge on a different day. It is a good idea to call the court clerk ahead of time, let them know about your bench warrant, and tell them you wish to turn yourself in. They can guide you on the next steps. You should speak with an attorney before turning yourself in. An attorney will help you understand the potential consequences of turning yourself in and can help you smooth things over with the judge. While turning yourself in is always an option, speak with a lawyer before making a decision.
Utah Bench Warrant Attorney Darwin Overson is Available to Help
If you discover that there is a bench warrant out for your arrest, the best thing you can do for yourself is to make an appearance in court as soon as possible. While turning yourself in is the best choice for your case, there will likely be some consequences. You may end up in jail or be made to pay bail. It’s most advantageous to use the knowledge of an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you understand your charges and to negotiate with the court. Running from a bench warrant is never a good idea, as it will inevitably catch up with you one day. Get in touch with Salt Lake City criminal defense attorney Darwin Overson as soon as possible to discuss your legal situation. Call Overson Law, PLLC, today at (801) 758-2287 and schedule a free legal consultation about your bench warrant.