Federal Crimes

A judge in Washington’s criminal court system will issue a bench warrant against a defendant if that person violates the conditions of release set by the court. The most common situation is when a party fails to show up for a scheduled court appearance. If a judge has issued a bench warrant against you, contact a Washington criminal defense lawyer now for help.

What is a Bench Warrant?

A judge issues a bench warrant in criminal court cases when a defendant violates the rules of the court. A judge most often issues a bench warrant against a defendant that has failed to appear for a scheduled court appearance (for example, at an arraignment). Once a bench warrant is issued, the police can use it to arrest the person named on the warrant and bring the party to court. Sometimes defendants have to remain in jail before they can appear in front of the judge that issued the warrant.

How Long Does a Bench Warrant Last?

Bench warrants issued in Washington typically do not expire. For example, a warrant does not go away after a set number of months or years. If warrants expired, the act would encourage dishonest behavior. Defendants would have an incentive to avoid court or dodge a criminal matter.

Bench warrants remain in effect until either:

  • The person named in the warrant dies, or
  • The judge clears the warrant.

A judge clearing a warrant is sometimes referred to as “recalling” or “quashing” it. Sometimes bench warrants will be set to expire after many years (10 or more), but they can be renewed.

How Does a Defendant Quash a Warrant?

Perhaps the quickest way to recall a bench warrant is for a defendant to post bail with the court. An accused can either post bail directly or have a bail bondsman post a bond. In the latter case, defendants will generally have to pay a percentage of the bail amount to the bondsman. Once the court receives the bail amount, it holds on to the bail money until the criminal case is resolved or the judge releases the money.

Another way a defendant can clear a warrant is to appear before the judge who issued it. Sometimes parties have a reasonable explanation for why they failed to appear in court. For example, maybe they or a family member had an emergency or a medical condition that made them unable to appear. Once a party appears before the judge, the judge will likely quash the warrant.

Is a Bench Warrant the Same Thing as an Arrest Warrant?

A bench warrant is a different type of warrant than an arrest warrant. A judge issues an arrest warrant when a person is suspected of criminal activity. Police typically initiate an arrest warrant by filing a statement with a judge that explains why they have probable cause to arrest a person. If the judge agrees with the statement, he/she signs the warrant, and the police have the authority to arrest the person named in it.

Contact Black & Askerov for Help

While a defendant can try to clear a bench warrant on his/her own, it is advisable to contact a skilled defense attorney for help. An experienced defense lawyer will know the best way to react to the warrant and will know how to get it quashed. The experienced bench warrant attorneys at Black & Askerov have over 35 years of combined experience defending clients on criminal charges. Our Seattle criminal defense lawyers have the skill and commitment that makes all the difference in these types of cases. Our attorneys will fight tooth and nail for you at every step of your case. Contact us now to get the legal help you deserve!