Bench warrants and how to resolve them

It doesn’t actually take much to end up with a bench warrant in Louisiana.

In fact, you may have one out there with your name on it for several years — and only find out when you’re pulled over for some minor traffic violation and end up in handcuffs.

What exactly is a bench warrant?

A bench warrant is a type of arrest warrant. It differs from a regular arrest warrant in that arrest warrants are usually for more serious crimes, have had evidence presented to a grand jury and a prosecutor has made a compelling case to bring you to trial.

On the other hand, a bench warrant can be issued because you missed the letter telling you to appear for jury duty, forgot about an unpaid traffic ticket, were accused of not complying with your custody agreement with your ex-spouse or some other small matter.

Sometimes people will realize that they have a bench warrant out because they remember — too late — about the forgotten traffic ticket or jury duty. Other times, they won’t find out until something brings it to light (like another traffic stop or a routine background check for a job).

How do you resolve a bench warrant?

Since these are issued “from the bench” by a specific judge, usually the only way to resolve one is to go back in front of that same judge and plead your case.

That can be a scary experience — especially if you don’t have a good excuse for why you didn’t comply with the court’s order. In addition, unless you are arrested at the scene of the discovery of the bench warrant, you have to go through the humiliation and trouble of turning yourself in at the courthouse in order to be seen.

How can an attorney help you?

An attorney can help you resolve a bench warrant by showing that you are taking the issue seriously. Your attorney also has experience talking to the judge and can often explain the circumstances of your failure to comply fairly easily (especially if it was something simple — like a letter that didn’t reach you or a simple misunderstanding because you thought you had complied with the court order after all.)

Don’t try to handle a bench warrant all on your own. An attorney can help you and may be able to have the possible penalties mitigated.

Source: FindLaw, “Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Tit. V, Art. 211.1. Persons with outstanding warrant;  arrest or release of person,” accessed Nov. 02, 2017

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