If you missed a court date and face failure to appear charges a bench warrant may be issued for your arrest. This is a confusing situation for many people. It’s also one with potentially serious consequences. Some defendants have asked us “do I need a lawyer to turn myself in on a bench warrant in Baltimore?’
It’s not obligatory to have a lawyer when facing a failure to appear charge. However, it’s advisable for anyone who is in trouble with the law in Baltimore or anywhere else to be represented by a criminal defense lawyer.
In this blog, experienced Baltimore criminal defense lawyer Randolph Rice looks at bench warrants in Maryland.
What Is the Bench Warrant Process in Baltimore?
A bench warrant is an order issued by a judge to arrest someone for failing to appear at a scheduled court hearing. Bench warrants are the most common type of warrant in Maryland. They are usually issued for failing to show up in court or for violating a probation order. The defendant must lack a valid reason for not showing up to a court appearance to be hit by a warrant. A judge will not usually issue a bench warrant if a family emergency or illness prevented the defendant from appearing in court. However, the defendant does not always realize a warrant has been issued. Bench warrants do not have time limits. They stay in the system forever until they are served by a police officer or recalled or quashed by a judge.
The bench warrant effectively gives the police the power to arrest the defendant at any time. If the subject of the warrant is pulled over, even for a minor infraction like having a light out, he or she faces arrest and the prospect of being transported back to the jurisdiction that issued the warrant by police officers. You may also be arrested out of state. The subject of the warrant will face a bail hearing. In extreme cases, they might be held in jail until their next court date.
Few people who are the subject of bench warrants in Maryland are picked up by police officers after committing other infractions. In many cases, a deputy or a police officer won’t turn up at your door either. Some people in Baltimore don’t even realize a bench warrant has been issued for their arrest.
How Do You Know if a Bench Warrant Was Issued for Your Arrest in Baltimore?
If you know you failed to keep the court date on a summons, it’s likely the court issued a bench warrant for your arrest. Failure to respond to that summons is likely to prompt a judge or a commissioner to issue a warrant in the district court. Judges order bench warrants in circuit courts.
Typically, defendants receive written notices of criminal proceedings by a summons. However, law enforcement officers often fail to serve a summons. You may be unaware of the existence of a warrant for your arrest.
If your underlying offense is a violent crime, chances are, the police will come knocking at your door. This may not be the case for theft, reckless driving, a DUI or another less serious offense. People with warrants for lower-order crimes in Baltimore may not be aware of the consequences of failing to appear. Baltimore residents lead busy and hectic lives.
They lose documentation. It’s easy for a court appearance for reckless driving to creep up on you and to miss the date. Nevertheless, a bench warrant in Baltimore is a serious issue. Never ignore it if you believe you missed a court hearing. The consequences get potentially more serious the longer you delay.
According to the Maryland Rules of Procedure, 16-1001 through 16-1011, the public can access most records held by the state. Under the Maryland Judiciary case search, you can find outstanding warrants issued against you. People seeking case information should click on the ‘person’ option. You can run an exact name search.
You can often find out anonymously if a judge or a commissioner issued a bench warrant against you. Use the Maryland Judiciary Case Search System. You could also call the court clerk and ask if there are any matters pending under a particular name. If you visit the court in person, there is a risk of being arrested on the spot. Even if you just use the terminals to find information, an official may recognize you.
How a Baltimore Bench Warrant Lawyer Can Help Your Case
If you find out a bench warrant was issued against you, simply turning yourself in is not always the best option. It’s prudent to get legal advice about your options as soon as you realize a warrant was issued.
A Baltimore bench warrant attorney can help you file a motion to recall the warrant. Bench warrants are usually issued because the defendant failed to appear for court. Your criminal defense lawyer can file a Motion to Recall the Warrant. Often judges will grant your lawyer’s motion. This means the warrant is quashed and a new court date is set. The fact you hired an attorney tells the court you are taking the matter seriously and are more likely to be at your next hearing. Your lawyer can articulate pertinent facts such as the failure of the courts to send you a notice for a court appearance. An experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer can also help if you genuinely forgot to show up to court. He can draft the motion in such a way that makes it clear you made an honest mistake. Judges are more likely to take an understanding approach if you have legal counsel.
If you don’t hire a lawyer you can do one of the following:
- Write a Letter or File a Motion Asking for the Warrant to be Recalled: You can write a letter or file a motion on your own as to why you missed an appearance, asking for the bench warrant to be removed. However, people who hire attorneys usually have more success in getting bench warrants overturned.
- Turn Yourself In: You can turn yourself in to the court if a bench warrant was issued against you in Maryland. You should prepare for the prospect of jail. You should line up a family member or a friend who is able to post bail on your behalf before you turn yourself in. The judge may set a bond or leave the decision up to the commissioner. The commissioner will set a bond or release you on your own recognizance. You should be prepared to spend a day or two in jail. It’s never advisable to turn yourself in at the start of a weekend when it can take longer to secure release.
What Are the Consequences of a Bench Warrant in Baltimore?
People who face bench warrants are often shocked by the consequences, particularly if the underlying offense they failed to appear for was a minor one. You can be hit with a misdemeanor charge, jail time, and fines of up to $1,000. The penalties may run concurrently with those for the initial crime. If you receive a bench warrant your situation can get worse fast. It’s important to contact a Baltimore fail to appear lawyer as soon as you realize a warrant is out for your arrest. Your attorney can help document things you may not articulate well yourself such as an underlying illness, an injury or illness to a relative, your failure to receive a notice, a car breakdown or any other circumstances beyond your control. Hiring an attorney can also buy you more time.
Talk to a Baltimore Bench Warrant Attorney
Bench warrant attorney Randolph Rice is a former District Attorney who has been working as a criminal defense lawyer for over a decade. His experience in the courts of Baltimore is invaluable in bench warrant hearings. He has helped people charged with a wide range of crimes ranging from homicides to robbery, DUIs, theft, and traffic offenses. Hiring a lawyer from the Law Offices of Randolph Rice can be the difference between being jailed for failing to appear at a court hearing and getting the warrant dismissed. Our attorneys fight hard for you to remain out of jail whenever possible. Please contact us today for a free consultation at (410) 431-0911.