Do Bench Warrants Expire in Maryland?

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A bench warrant is typically issued by a judge after someone fails to appear in court.  This isn’t like a criminal arrest warrant that needs to be executed quickly to investigate a crime and make an arrest, so many bench warrants stay on file for weeks, months, or years before they’re used.  Typically, these warrants do not expire, which means that it is important to get a bench warrant taken care of so that you can avoid getting arrested and taken to jail.  Baltimore bench warrant defense lawyer Randolph Rice explains more about bench warrants and why they do not expire.

Why Doesn’t a Bench Warrant Expire?

Bench warrants are a separate type of warrant from a criminal search or arrest warrant.  Criminal arrest warrants are issued when police think someone committed a crime so that they can arrest them and charge them with the offense.  Criminal search warrants are used to gather more information and find evidence to help support an arrest or criminal charges.  These warrants are typically carried out quickly so that the defendant doesn’t know what’s coming and can’t hide evidence.  With a bench warrant, the goal is simply to get someone to appear in court.

After you are arrested or cited for a crime, the court may release you on bail.  You are given court dates you need to appear to, and if you fail to come to court, the court cannot progress with the case against you.  This means that they need to get you back to the courtroom before they can try and convict you, and bench warrants are used to make that happen.

Courts and police departments do not spend the time and resources to go after people with pending bench warrants and instead wait until they come across them for another reason.  This could mean arresting people on a bench warrant during a traffic ticket stop, a drunk driving stop, or investigation for a domestic violence report.  If bench warrants had an expiration date, police wouldn’t be able to sit and wait.

Criminal charges usually must be filed within a few years to meet the statute of limitations for those charges.  Bench warrants do not run afoul of the statute of limitations because the case is already filed against you by the time a bench warrant is issued.  This means it could essentially stay on record indefinitely without violating your rights.

What Happens if I’m Arrested on a Bench Warrant in Maryland?

Bench warrants can stay on record for a long time.  Typically, if a police officer finds the warrant on record, they will arrest you and deliver you to the appropriate court that issued the warrant.  Once you get to jail, you may be kept there until you can go to court, with any requests for bail being denied.  If it will take a while to get you before the judge, you may be able to get a bail hearing sooner.  What comes next in court depends on how far through your case you were before the failure to appear; you may need to be prepared for preliminary steps or get ready for trial while waiting in jail.

It’s important to realize that judges often deny bail or set high bail amounts for defendants who seem like a flight risk.  This is common for people who do not have ties to the community, e.g., people who live out of state and might just flee from the case against them.  It also applies to people who have a history of failing to appear in court.  If they already had to resort to a bench warrant to get you to court once, the judge might deny bail entirely to make sure you attend your court dates.

Getting an Active Warrant Dropped in MD

If you find out that you have an active bench warrant, you may have some options to avoid getting arrested and taken to jail.  In many cases, courts simply want to get you into the courtroom and move the case along.  It doesn’t make much difference to the judge if you appear on your own or if they have to go through the time and expense of arresting you, keeping you in jail, and transporting you to court.

This often means that you can get a bench warrant dropped by simply calling the court, asking about the warrant, and scheduling a new court date.  If you appear in court to handle the case against you, the judge may drop the warrant.  Work with an attorney to help get your warrant dropped and your court date scheduled.

It is important to remember that when you do arrive in court, there will be a case pending against you.  In some cases, this could be a stack of unpaid traffic tickets or parking tickets, or it could be more serious criminal charges like theft or assault where you were previously released on bail.  You should work with an attorney to help you fight these charges, potentially getting the case against you dismissed or the charges reduced.

Call Our Baltimore Bench Warrant Lawyer for a Free Consultation

If there is a bench warrant for you, you may not be able to run from it forever.  Bench warrants usually do not expire, and police can pick you up on a warrant nearly any time.  Call our Baltimore criminal defense lawyer today for help clearing up a bench warrant and moving the case along.  Our attorneys can call the court and work to get the warrant dropped, but we can also help you fight the charges you will face once you get to court.  For a free legal consultation on your case, call the Law Offices of Randolph Rice today at (410) 694-7291.


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