Police can show up at your residence to serve a bench warrant, an arrest warrant, or a search warrant. Defendants are often unsure about the limits of police powers and allow officers to go beyond their legal powers. Defendants often ask, ‘Can police enter your home with a bench warrant in Maryland?’

In this blog, Baltimore bench warrant lawyer Randolph Rice writes about the powers of home entry given to police to enforce a failure to appear warrant.

A bench warrant or fail to appear warrant gives police the authority to go to the house to arrest the subject of the warrant. If your original offense was a ‘must appear’ traffic crime or a less serious misdemeanor, police or deputies are unlikely to show up at your home address. However, officers are more likely to pay you a visit if you fail to appear for a felony hearing.

Police typically treat bench warrants like arrest warrants when they serve them. A bench warrant is an executable document that gives police the same powers to enter your property and take people Into custody as any other form of warrant. The Baltimore Police policy for warrants states officers can make a forced entry with a valid warrant:

  • if it was executed by a circuit or district court in Baltimore or an outside jurisdiction.
  • If it identifies the name and the characteristics of the person whose arrest is ordered;
  • The warrant should state the crime the subject is accused of;
  • It should be signed by a judge.

The policy states police have the authority to enter, search for, and arrest the subject of the warrant inside their primary residence. However, they must have reliable information that the person lives in the property and is inside it. Police should not enter a home to search for anyone on the basis of their address without reliable information that the defendant is inside the property.

Law enforcement officers must be able to “articulate specific facts that indicate to them that a particular residence is where a person lives and that the person is inside that home.”

A police officer may break open a door or window to enter a home and enforce a bench warrant if the occupants refuse to let the officer in. The peace officer must first give the defendant notice of his or her authority and purpose. An officer should announce his or her purpose unless there is a reasonable fear the subject will try to escape, destroy evidence or endanger himself.

Will Police Visit Your Home to Serve a Bench Warrant in Maryland?

Not necessarily. Police give arrest warrants a higher priority. Although many police stations have a department that serves bench warrants, it’s not standard protocol for officers to automatically visit the homes of people with outstanding bench warrants. A lot of defendants with bench warrants remain unattested in Baltimore.

Bench warrants, also known as failure to appear (FTA) warrants, are most commonly served on defendants who missed a court date, witnesses who didn’t show up to a trial or people who breached their probation orders. 

The police will not necessarily conduct an automatic search for you. However, if police stop you for any reason in the future, you can be arrested. Bench warrants don’t disappear from the system unless you deal with them.

You can be pulled over for a broken taillight in another county or even another state and police may arrest you for the outstanding bench warrant.

Police are more likely to show up and enter your home if you failed to show up for a hearing over a felony offense. A defendant who doe not keep his or her trial date on a felony criminal offense will likely receive a no-bail bench warrant and remain behind bars. He or she will lose any prior bail or pre-trial release. Defendants who don’t show to sentencing hearings often face serious consequences. They can lose a plea deal reached on their behalf and be forced to wait in jail until their case is concluded or until a no-bail hold is modified by a judge.

Judges issue thousands of bench warrants every year in Maryland. Although police can enter your home with a bench warrant in Maryland, many of these are for ‘must appear’ traffic offenses like driving on a suspended license or DUIs. Typically, the police don’t break down the doors of people who have been arrested for these crimes, but law enforcement has wide discretion.

Can Police Enter Your Home Without a Bench Warrant in Maryland?

Police should have a warrant to enter your home in Maryland. The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects people from arbitrary searches. Police must show probable cause that a crime has been committed to obtain a warrant. There are exceptions.

Police can also enter your home without a bench warrant in Maryland if they have a different type of warrant. If the warrant has been issued for your arrest, they can enter your home as long as they have reliable information it’s the correct address and you are inside.

The requirement for you to be inside the property does not have to be met if police have a search warrant. A judge can issue a search warrant when there is probable cause to believe a misdemeanor or a felony is being committed by someone in a building, an apartment or elsewhere, or property subject to seizure under the criminal laws of Maryland is on the person or inside the building. A Baltimore criminal defense lawyer could help you further understand what other requirements do not need to be met for police to issue the warrant. 

A search warrant must be narrowly worded to describe the property, the address, and the person who is the subject of the warrant. The application may contain a request that the search takes place without giving notice of the officer’s authority or purpose if the property would otherwise be removed or the officer’s life is in danger. 

Police officers and fire marshals may apply for search warrants in Maryland.

Ask a Criminal Defense Lawyer if Police Can Enter Your Home With a Bench Warrant in Maryland

It’s unnerving to realize a search warrant has been issued for your arrest in Maryland. You may fear a knock at the door at any time, or an arrest the next time you encounter police. At the Law Office of Randolph Rice, our Maryland bench warrant lawyers can answer your bench warrant questions and provide a proactive strategy to fight a warrant.

We use a robust procedure to recall or quash a bench warrant in Maryland. We have overturned many warrants, giving defendants another court date, avoiding jail. Call us for a free consultation to help you if you know or believe a bench warrant was issued for your arrest. Please contact us at (410) 431-9011.