How to Deal with a Bench Warrant on a Misdemeanor or Felony Charge

You may not need to be arrested or taken into custody if there is a bench warrant for your arrest.

Michigan Criminal Defense Attorneys - Group

A savvy defense lawyer can negotiate to get the warrant lifted.

A bench warrant is an arrest warrant that judges order against defendants in misdemeanor or felony cases. The most common reason for a bench warrant is failing to appear in court (FTA). An experienced lawyer can usually find a way to get the warrant lifted and avoid the need for their client’s arrest.

A bench warrant does not usually mean the police will immediately look for you (although they can). Generally, your name will go into a statewide computer that serves the entire law enforcement community. Once your name is in that database, and you deal with the police for any reason – even something that is not your fault, they will take you into custody. Like Oakland County, Wayne County, and Macomb County, some counties have fugitive apprehension teams that occasionally do sweeps where they look for those with pending bench warrants.

Posting Bond Following a Bench Warrant for a Misdemeanor or Felony

If you are arrested and taken into custody, you will likely have to post a bond to be released. Once that is accomplished, you will get a new court date. You will stay in custody until the court hearing if you do not post bond. You should not take a bench warrant for misdemeanor or felony charges lightly.

You should immediately contact a criminal defense lawyer if you know a bench warrant is out for your arrest. An experienced lawyer can deal with the court or the local police department. Many things need to be arranged, such as appropriate times to appear in court, the amount of the bond, and who will pay it, if necessary.

If you posted a bond previously, that money is probably forfeited. A good, experienced criminal defense lawyer may persuade the judge to reinstate the original bond or allow the new bond to be personal (meaning no money will have to be posted).

Attorney - Michigan - Awards

How a Good Defense Lawyer Can Help With a Bench Warrant

Naturally, having an experienced criminal lawyer arguing on your behalf during this process will show the judge that you take the charges against you seriously and are genuinely apologetic about your failure to appear in court. If you made an honest mistake, the lawyer would develop a persuasive argument to show the judge that incarceration is unnecessary to ensure your appearance at the next court date. In contrast, if you get arrested or voluntarily surrender without a lawyer, you won’t have anyone at your bench warrant arraignment to speak on your behalf. Achieving a favorable result in court requires careful and thorough preparation. A top lawyer will know the steps necessary to keep you out of custody and free on bond. For example, a respected criminal defense attorney will likely make arrangements with the prosecutor and police department to secure their concurrence in obtaining favorable bond recommendations or agreements.

A Judge Might Understand and Rescind a Felony or Misdemeanor Warrant

Some judges are more reasonable than others. Even hard-nosed judges can understand when an influential, respected lawyer explains why their client might have been unable to appear for a scheduled hearing. Defendants frequently miss a court date because of any of the following reasons:

  • a genuine mistake,
  • court notice never sent or received,
  • car accident or breakdown on the way to court,
  • illness or hospitalization of themselves or a family member,
  • family emergency, or
  • complications with employment.
Lewis & Dickstein, Southfield, Michigan

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Regarding Bench Warrants

What is a bench warrant? A bench warrant is issued by a judge (hence the term “bench”) when someone fails to appear in court as ordered, does not comply with court conditions, or violates probation, among other reasons.

Will the police come to my house or work to arrest me? While the police can arrest someone with a bench warrant at their home or place of work, it often depends on the severity of the crime and the resources of the local law enforcement agency. However, individuals with a warrant can be arrested during routine traffic stops or other interactions with law enforcement. It is always best to hire a lawyer to get rid of a warrant rather than risking arrest and detention in jail.

What should I do if I have a bench warrant? It’s generally advised to consult with an attorney who can guide you on the best course of action. Often, turning oneself in voluntarily can be seen more favorably than being arrested unexpectedly. This might also give an individual the opportunity to address the underlying issue that led to the warrant being issued.

Can I travel or move out of state with a pending bench warrant? While it’s technically possible to move or travel with a bench warrant, it’s risky. If stopped by law enforcement, even outside of Michigan, you could be arrested and extradited back to Michigan. Moreover, some warrants are entered into national databases, making it risky to travel outside the U.S.

What are the consequences of not addressing a bench warrant? Ignoring a bench warrant can lead to further legal complications, including additional charges, increased penalties, and long-term detention in jail. The warrant will not expire and will remain active until it’s addressed. It can also impact one’s ability to renew a driver’s license, secure employment, or pass background checks.

Defendants Who Remain Free on Bond Get More Favorable Outcomes

The relationship between pretrial detention (staying in jail before trial) and case outcomes has been the subject of extensive research. While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer since multiple factors can influence the outcome of a criminal case, there are several consistent findings across studies:

  • Higher Conviction Rates: Defendants who are detained pretrial tend to have higher conviction rates than those released on bond. This could be due to various factors, including the possible perception of guilt if someone is in custody, the difficulty in preparing a defense while detained, or a greater likelihood of accepting plea deals to expedite release.
  • Plea Bargaining: Those detained pretrial are more likely to accept plea deals, even if innocent because it might offer a quicker way out of detention. This can especially be the case for defendants who cannot afford bail and might remain in custody for extended periods.
  • Longer Sentences: Studies have shown that those detained pretrial often receive longer sentences than those who are not. Again, this could be tied to accepting plea deals, perceived guilt, or other factors.
  • Impact on Future Criminal Behavior: Some research suggests that pretrial detention can increase the likelihood of future criminal behavior, especially for low-risk defendants. The experience of being in jail, even for short periods, can be disruptive and may result in loss of employment, housing, or family ties, making reintegration more challenging.
  • Economic and Social Costs: There are also economic costs associated with pretrial detention – it’s expensive to house inmates. On a personal level, those detained can lose their jobs, homes, and even custody of their children, leading to further destabilization. Also, jail is not free. Those released from custody will get hefty bills for their time in county jail.
Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

Michigan Criminal Defense Attorneys who are Experienced with Bench Warrants, Bonds, and Bail

The attorneys at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. specialize in criminal defense. Defending people charged with crimes is all we do. If you face a bench warrant, it is essential that you resolve it as soon as possible. You do not want the embarrassment and humiliation of the police arresting you when you can voluntarily appear before the Court and get the warrant recalled. The attorneys at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. have decades of experience helping people charged with all types of crimes and with an outstanding bench or arrest warrant.

Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.

We will find a way to help you and, most importantly,
we are not afraid to win!

Contact Us - Michigan Criminal Defense Attorneys