Perhaps you forgot about your trial and failed to attend the hearing, or maybe you did not know about your hearing in the first place. If so, a California judge will authorize a bench warrant. In accordance with California Penal Code sections PC 166 and PC 978.5, bench warrants are precisely what its name suggests. The judge sometimes called “the bench” will be the one who will issue the warrant, hence why it is called a “bench warrant”. An individual with this type of summon order will either have to present themselves to the jury or have police officers turn them over to the court.
Unlike most summon orders, bench warrants are specifically made for individuals who did not turn up to their initial court hearing, contempt of court, or have an outstanding balance. The conditions that lead to the issuance of a seat warrant doesn't need to be criminal offenses. For example, you're trying to avoid paying for child support as coordinated by the court. The court will still necessitate your appearance to settle this concern. Hence, a bench warrant will be cited to you.
Now, much to most of the people's dismay, one cannot simply wait out until the bench warrant becomes void. In fact, it will catch up with you even if you like it or not. An officer may knock on your door at any given moment. It does not end except if the individual is deceased or if the magistrate drops it. Meanwhile, there is only one way to clear one's bench warrant from California's judicial records. And that is, indeed, to manifest before the court. The individual has two options: to attend by himself or to appoint a lawyer to attend on his behalf. The first option is strongly recommended as opposed to the second one due to the following reasons:
- An individual can only send his/her legal counselor relying on the prerequisite that the offense committed by the defendant was a misdemeanor
- Especially for a felony case, the presence of the defendant is mandatory
Related Penal Codes, such as PC 853.7, PC 1320a, and PC 1320b are all under California's Failure to Appear (FTA) law. By definition, it is when the warranted individual willfully disobeys or avoids the court. Furthermore, the law maintains that an individual is presumably informed about their warrants. Hence, if you believe a bench warrant is out to get you, you need to consult with your lawyer as soon as possible.
Punishments for Violation of PC 166 & 978.5
Evading the call of the court is considered a crime in California. Hence, you should always answer to the law. This is because a judge will not ask for your presence solely for the purpose of small talking with you. If it has something to do with the law, then you must take it seriously. Otherwise, you may face the following penalties:
An FTA as a misdemeanor will subject you to:
- At least one year in county jail
- $1,000 fine at most
An FTA as a felony will subject you to:
- 3 years maximum jail time in county jail
- $5,000 fine at most
- For individuals who posted bail, they are expected to pay a fine of around five thousand to ten thousand dollars
A bench warrant for your arrest will take away some degree of freedom you so value. For instance, if the company you're applying to finds out upon background check that you have a bench warrant, there is a high chance they will not hire you. Not only that, but it will also take away your privilege of traveling overseas or across the country. If you want to drop a bench warrant, here are the possible defenses you can use:
- The accused did not obtain a transcript of the warrant;
- The accused obeyed all court orders (i.e.: following probation orders);
- The warrant was intended for a different person
Despite knowing these facts, you must still consult with a knowledgeable defense lawyer here at the Law Officce of Raoul Severo in California. You will be able to get the help needed to take the proper steps for you to be free from any legal obligations.
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