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Bench Warrants vs. Arrest Warrants

Bench Warrants vs. Arrest Warrants

Do you have reason to believe that an arrest is in your future? If you’re confident that you’re on law enforcement’s radar, then you should learn about traditional arrest warrants and bench warrants. Are they the same thing? If not, how are they different?

First, let’s take a look at bench warrants. Essentially, a judge issues an arrest warrant “from the bench” because you failed to do something you were supposed to do, like show up in court. Typically, judges issue bench warrants whenever criminal defendants fail to appear in court for a scheduled hearing or court appearance.

The court doesn’t care if your wife went into labor on the same day. The court doesn’t care if your car broke down on the way to court, or if you couldn’t get a ride. Even if you were scheduled to work on the day of your court appearance, the court expects you to show up. If you’re not there for any reason, the judge issues a bench warrant.

Once a bench warrant is issued in your name, it acts much like a traditional arrest warrant. If you’re pulled over on a routine traffic stop for moving violation, like speeding, the police officer will run your information in their computer and when the bench warrant comes up, they’ll arrest you on the spot.

How Arrest Warrants Are Different

The key difference between a bench warrant and an arrest warrant is that arrest warrants are initiated by police officers instead of judges. Under many circumstances, a police officer must get an arrest warrant signed by a judge before they can seek an arrest.

However, this does not mean that police officers need to obtain arrest warrants before they arrest every gang member, “John,” drunk driver, or purse snatcher. If a crime is committed in a police officer’s presence, or if a suspect is in a suspicious location after an offense was committed, or if a police officer has a reasonable suspicion that a suspect just committed a crime, then they can usually make an arrest.

Often, a police officer will be quietly investigating a suspect for a fraudulent crime, a drug crime, a theft-related crime, or a violent offense. Once the officer has gathered enough evidence, they present it to a judge and request an arrest warrant.

If the judge is convinced, he or she signs off on the arrest warrant and the officer is free to show up at the suspect’s work, or even their home at 3 am, when he’s fast asleep and completely off-guard.

If you suspect there is a warrant for your arrest in Oakland or anywhere else in the East Bay, contact the Law Office of Nabiel C. Ahmed for a free consultation!

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