A bench warrant differs from a standard arrest warrant in that it is issued by a judge rather than the police, and is not always associated with criminal charges. It can be issued for conduct that occurs in a courtroom, civil matters, and also for failing to appear in court or ignoring a court summons. The warrant allows law enforcement officers to arrest the individual named at any time in any place, though such warrants are not often at the top of their priority list, unless the warrant is for a serious offense.
Failure to address a bench warrant in a timely fashion can lead to serious penalties, including heavy fines, jail time, or other consequences. Because of this, it is highly advised you contact an experienced Fort Worth criminal defense attorney right away if you have an outstanding bench warrant.
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What are Bench Warrants?
Bench warrants are commonly issued for failing to appear in court, which is also referred to as “bail jumping” in Texas. Under Texas Penal Code 38.10, a person who is lawfully released from custody, with or without bail, on the condition that they appear in court commits an offense if they intentionally or knowingly fail to appear according to the rules of their release.
What are the Penalties for Violating a Bench Warrant?
If a person is found guilty of bail jumping and subsequently violating the terms of their bench warrant, they may face the following charges:
- Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a $4,000 fine
- Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a $500 fine, if the offense for which the defendant’s appearance was required is punishable by a fine only
- Third-degree felony, punishable by two to 10 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine, if the offense for which the defendant’s appearance was required is a felony
Some legal defenses to failure to appear charges include:
- the appearance was incident to community supervision, parole or an intermittent sentence
- the defendant had a reasonable excuse for his failure to appear in accordance with the terms of his release
What If I Have an Outstanding Bench Warrant?
Having an outstanding bench warrant can cause significant anxiety, confusion, and fear in an individual. The consequences of ignoring or failing to handle it can result in penalties far greater than would have been levied for the original offense.
Retaining the services of a skilled attorney can help someone deal with the emotional strain that comes with the threat of being arrested, and can increase one's chances of avoiding the consequences attendant to an outstanding warrant. At The Alband Law Firm, we have years of experience in handling all aspects of our client's criminal cases.
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