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How Long Do You Stay in Jail for a Bench Warrant in 2024?

The length of time you stay in jail for a bench warrant depends on the circumstances and the jurisdiction of your case. In certain instances, you may be held until your court appearance, which could be a matter of days or weeks. However, if the bench warrant is related to a serious offense or if you have a history of failing to appear, you could be held for a longer period of time.
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What is a Bench Warrant?

A bench warrant is an order issued by a judge for the arrest of a defendant [1]. It is typically issued when the individual fails to appear in court on a scheduled date or violates court rules. While a bench warrant is not the same as an arrest warrant, law enforcement treats it similarly and will seek to arrest the individual named in the warrant.

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.

What Happens After a Bench Warrant is Executed?

After a bench warrant is executed, you will be detained until you can appear before a judge, which typically must occur within a few days, depending on the jurisdiction. Bail may be set.

If you cannot post bail, you will remain in custody until your trial date for the underlying offense, which could be several months.

If you are convicted for the offense that led to the warrant’s issuance, that jail sentence will have to be served, as well.

Factors That Will Influence Jail Time When Arrested

If you are arrested on an outstanding bench warrant, the duration of your jail stay depends largely on the reason for the warrant.

For instance, if you are a defendant in a criminal case and fail to appear for a court date, you may remain in jail until your case is resolved through a plea deal or trial. This is to ensure you do not miss any critical hearings.

On the other hand, if you’re not an existing defendant but still landed yourself with a warrant —maybe you ignored a subpoena to testify as a witness or violated a civil court order like a restraining order — you’ll likely spend less time detained. Although you could still face contempt charges.

Typical Jail Time When Arrested on a Bench Warrant

Unfortunately, there is no fixed duration for how long you can be detained on a warrant. The potential jail time hinges on various factors:

  • If Awaiting Trial: If arrested on a bench warrant for a pending criminal case, you may remain in jail until the trial concludes. For serious felony charges, this period of incarceration could extend for months until your case reaches a resolution.
  • Violation of Court Orders: If the warrant arises from something like violating probation or ignoring a restraining order, expect detention until you comply with the court’s directives. Refusal to obey orders, even without an underlying case, can lead to contempt charges and jail time.
  • Contempt of Court Charges (Penal Code 166): Contempt is often associated with bench warrants. Under California state law, civil contempt, such as refusing to testify when subpoenaed, can result in up to 5 days in jail plus fines. Criminal contempt can lead to a maximum of 6 months of imprisonment.
  • Failure to Appear Charges (Penal Code 1214.1): Defendants who miss court dates also face failure-to-appear charges in addition to their underlying case. For example, a felony DUI defendant arrested on an FTA bench warrant could serve 3+ years just for failing to appear.

It’s challenging to predict the exact duration of your detention, but it is likely to be significant. While the warrant itself doesn’t specify jail terms, contempt or failure-to-appear charges can lead to additional time. Moreover, post-trial sentencing for the original charges may result in further incarceration.

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References:

  1. https://www.davidmckenzielawfirm.com/faqs/what-does-a-bench-warrant-mean

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