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How Long Does a bench Warrant Last in California?

In California, a bench warrant typically remains active indefinitely until it is resolved. Unlike some other types of warrants that may have expiration dates, a bench warrant is issued by a judge for a specific purpose, such as failing to appear in court or failing to comply with a court order. Once issued, it remains in effect until the individual appears before the court to address the underlying issue or until the court withdraws or quashes the warrant.
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What is a Bench Warrant?

When a judge issues a bench warrant, it signifies an order for the arrest of a defendant. Typically, this occurs when an individual fails to appear in court on a specified date, especially after being charged with a crime. Such warrants are commonly termed “bench warrants for failure to appear.” However, a judge can also issue a bench warrant for various court rule violations.

Once a judge issues a bench warrant, law enforcement may treat it like any other warrant. This usually means seeking out the subject of the warrant for arrest. If you discover you have a bench warrant out, it is a good idea to get a lawyer and turn yourself in as soon as possible. Some people believe they can evade a bench warrant, but those people are almost always wrong.

Is There a Statute of Limitations on Arrest Warrants in California?

According to the Law Dictionary, there are no statutes of limitations concerning arrest or bench warrants [1]. Once issued, these warrants persist indefinitely, irrespective of the passage of time.

The state has determined that sufficient evidence exists to pursue a case against that defendant, thus, when it issues an arrest warrant then that warrant is considered valid regardless of the time that has elapsed since the warrant’s issuance.

How to Clear a Bench Warrant Without Going to Jail

Dealing with a bench warrant involves a process known as “clearing,” “lifting,” or “recalling.” Here’s a guide on how to navigate this situation effectively and potentially avoid jail time.

Secure Legal Representation
Upon discovering a bench warrant against you, it’s crucial to enlist the support of an attorney specializing in criminal defense and warrants. A skilled attorney can provide guidance on the legal process and advocate on your behalf in court, increasing your chances of a favorable outcome.

Surrender to the Warrant
Once you’ve retained legal counsel, coordinate with your attorney to initiate the surrender process in the jurisdiction where the warrant was issued. Typically, this involves voluntarily presenting yourself for booking at a specified time, paying a bond, and awaiting release pending a court appearance. Some jurisdictions offer expedited surrender programs, streamlining the process for individuals to surrender and be arraigned on the same day without being detained, as seen in Oklahoma County’s “In and Out Surrender Program.”

Present Your Case
Following your surrender, a new court date will be scheduled for you to argue your case. Depending on the nature of the warrant, your attorney may need to accompany you to court, especially for felony cases or probation violations. Alternatively, for misdemeanor warrants related to failure to appear or unpaid fines, your attorney can represent you in court.
Your attorney can advocate for clearing the bench warrant by presenting various arguments, such as:

  • Lack of initial notice to appear
  • Lack of awareness of the filed case
  • Compliance or belief in compliance with court orders
  • Mistaken identity
  • Demonstrating you’re not a flight risk or likely to commit further offenses

By articulating these points effectively, your attorney can work towards resolving the bench warrant and mitigating potential consequences.

Recalling / Quashing Bench Warrants

Bench warrants can indeed be recalled and quashed, effectively removing them from the judicial system. This process, often referred to as clearing the warrant, typically involves presenting compelling arguments to the judge during a bench warrant hearing.

Here are some key points that may help in persuading the judge:

  • Lack of Notice: Demonstrating that you did not receive notice of the missed court date.
  • Compliance: Proving that you have complied with all court orders.
  • Emergency: Explaining that you missed your court appearance due to a legitimate emergency.
  • Lack of Awareness: Asserting that you were unaware of the case.
  • Mistaken Identity: Providing evidence that you are not the subject of the warrant due to mistaken identity.

In cases where the bench warrant is associated with a misdemeanor offense, our experienced criminal defense attorneys have observed that lawyers can often quash the warrant on your behalf, even in your absence. However, for felony cases, your presence at the bench warrant hearing is typically required.

It’s crucial to have legal representation throughout this process to ensure the best possible outcome. Failure to persuade the judge could result in being held in jail. Our criminal defense attorneys are adept at implementing strategies to minimize this risk and effectively advocate on your behalf.

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The Litigation Group at Schmidt & Clark, LLP is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focuses on the representation of plaintiffs in lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new legal challenges in all 50 states.

If you or a loved one was involved with these matters, you should contact our law firm immediately for a free case evaluation. You may be entitled to a settlement by filing a suit and we can help.

References:

1. https://thelawdictionary.org/article/statute-limitations-arrest-warrants/

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