The most important thing to do if you discover that a bench warrant or arrest warrant has been issued against you, or that you have missed a court session that you were ordered to attend (as a defendant or a witness), is to act quickly. The judge may have issued a bench warrant for your arrest because you failed to appear. This implies that the police can arrest you at any moment, whether it’s during a routine traffic stop, at your home or business, or when you appear in court for another reason. If you do not address the warrant, you will be continuously concerned that you may be arrested.
Why are warrants issued?
Warrants are issued by courts for a variety of reasons.
A bench warrant has been issued. A bench warrant instructs law enforcement to apprehend a person and bring them before a court to address the reason for the warrant’s issuance. Bench warrants are typically issued for failing to appear in court, breaching probation, or failing to comply with a court order to pay a fine, perform community service, pay child support, or perform some other act. If you are arrested on a warrant, you may be detained until your case is heard in court, or you may be compelled to post a large bail and pay court fees.
Arrest warrant has been issued. An officer or detective can ask the court to issue a warrant for your arrest if the police have solid evidence that you committed a crime. You can be kept in detention without bail until an arraignment, release hearing, or other comparable action.
Consequences of Missing a Court Appearance
You may receive a summons or notification in the mail to appear in court for minor criminal accusations or traffic tickets. A court order is a summons or notice to appear. You may be expected to attend multiple times during a criminal case, depending on the charges — for an arraignment, pre-trial conference, hearing, trial, sentencing, or other event. You have violated the court order if you do not present as directed, and the judge might charge you with failure to appear or contempt of court.
If you fail to appear, the court can take a variety of remedies, including charging you with a felony.
A bench warrant has been issued. A bench warrant, as previously stated, authorizes law enforcement to arrest you and bring you before the court to address your failure to appear. On a bench warrant, you can be held without bond until the court schedules a hearing.
There will be a jail term as well as penalties. If you are found guilty of failure to appear or contempt of court, a judge might send you to prison or fine you. Typically, defendants are not informed of their constitutional right to counsel at this time, a practice that South Carolina’s Chief Justice has ruled unlawful (the Justice ordered a county’s sheriff’s office to delay such warrants’ delivery).
Your driver’s license will be suspended. In some places, if you fail to appear in court, the judge might order your driver’s license to be suspended. The suspension will last at least until you appear in front of a judge to explain why you failed to appear.
Revocation of the bond or a change in the terms of the release. If the court has previously released you on your own recognizance without asking you to post a bond, the judge may amend your conditions of release by imposing a bond, which requires you to deposit money with the court in order to be freed from detention while your case is pending. The court may enhance your bond if you posted bond in your criminal case. In each circumstance, the judge has the authority to order that you stay in jail until the end of your case.