What is a bench warrant?

What is a bench warrant?

The Maryland Judiciary has warned residents in Baltimore and the surrounding counties about a telephone scam that has been making the rounds involving Baltimore bench warrants. The caller tries to extort money from victims, telling them they will be arrested for failing to appear in court.

The caller claims to be with the local sheriff's office and tells the victim that a judge has issued a bench warrant because the person failed to appear in court, according to a press statement issued by the courts.

When the intended victim tells the caller he or she did not get a summons, the caller claims it was sent to the work address and says that someone at the office signed the certified mail receipt. In many instances, victims have said, the caller provided the actual work address.

The caller tells the victim that they could have a sheriff pick them up, the release said. To prevent this, the caller tells the victim to obtain a bond voucher for hundreds of dollars to be sent via Paypal or some other means to a specified account to resolve the matter.

If you receive such a call, hang up immediately. If you receive a voicemail with such a message, do not return the call.

Courts do not call people to notify them of a bench warrant and they do not call or email people to request credit card or PayPal payments to resolve matters.

But, courts do issue bench warrants in legitimate circumstances. Bench warrants are common in Maryland when a defendant misses a court date. A bench warrant is an order by a judge that directs law enforcement officers to arrest or hold an individual if the individual fails to appear in court or to obey a court order.

For example, a bench warrant will be issued in Baltimore and the surrounding counties if you miss a criminal or traffic trial date on a traffic ticket that requires an appearance in court. If a driver is issued a “must appear” traffic ticket and misses the court date, then the court will issue a bench warrant. However, failing to appear for a payable traffic ticket such as a speeding ticket or stop sign violation will not result in a Baltimore bench warrant.

If criminal charges are filed against you and you fail to appear, then the court may convert the summons to a bench warrant. If a Baltimore bench warrant is issued, the court will send the warrant to the police station closest to your home.

Most police departments have warrant task forces that serve bench warrants every day. The police will look for you at your home and place of employment. If you are stopped and the police run your name and a Baltimore or Maryland bench warrant has been issued, they will arrest you.

Bench warrants are also called arrest warrants; but, arrest warrants are, for the most part, issued by a judge or commissioner for an initial criminal charge.

Fighting a Bench Warrant

A Baltimore bench warrant does not always mean a person will go to jail. A lawyer can file a motion to quash the bench warrant. The motion will explain why the defendant missed court and include supporting documents.

Reasonable excuses for missing court dates include a documented serious illness or injury; the serious injury or illness of an immediate relative such as a spouse, parent, or child under your care; failure to receive a notice of hearing because of an error by the court; incarceration on other charges; or accident, automotive breakdown or other unforeseen circumstances beyond your control that prevented your appearance.

If the judge grants the motion to quash the bench warrant, then the defendant does not have to go to jail for the bench warrant, but the court has the right to issue a summons for the defendant to appear at a later court date. This notice will be sent by mail.

Most courts will rule on the motion to quash the bench warrant within one week, although sometimes it takes longer to hear back from the courts.

If you are arrested while waiting for the court to rule on the motion to quash the bench warrant. You will be taken before the commissioner or judge that issued the bench warrant. If the judge pre-set the bail, then you can post the bail and you will be released. If the judge did not set a bail amount, then the commissioner will set the bail amount.

A Baltimore bench warrant will not go away. It stays on the books until the person is arrested or the bench warrant is recalled. It does not have an expiration date. So, if you try to avoid the bench warrant or being arrested by the police, the warrant will not go away.

If you are facing or suspect you are facing a Baltimore or Maryland bench warrant, you need to talk to a Baltimore bench warrant lawyer. A Maryland bench warrant lawyer can help in getting the bench warrant set aside or overturned. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas J. Maronick have experience handling these cases. You can contact Thomas Maronick on his cellphone at 202.288.0167, the law office at 410.934.3007 or via our website for a free consultation.