The Difference Between a Warrant and a Bench Warrant in Maryland?

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In Maryland, warrants and bench warrants are both orders from a judge or a court that can land you in jail. That’s where the similarities end. In looking at what is the difference between a warrant and a bench warrant in Maryland it’s necessary to consider the purpose of the orders.

The terminology is confusing. A bench warrant may be referred to as a warrant. However, this usually means an arrest warrant.  You should not ignore any kind of warrant. It will not go away. Failing to act on these official documents from the court can complicate your case and land you in jail.

In this article, Baltimore bench warrant lawyer Randolph Rice considers what is the difference between a warrant and a bench warrant in Maryland?

What is a Maryland Arrest Warrant?

An arrest warrant is issued by a judge or a commissioner in Maryland when he or she believes there is probable cause that a crime has been committed. 

For instance, a district court commissioner may issue an arrest warrant when the victim of a crime files a statement of charges. The commissioner has the option of either issuing a summons for the accused or a warrant in more serious cases like weapons crimes or other violent offenses. Arrest warrants can be issued in a range of circumstances If a prosecutor presents enough evidence to establish probable cause for an arrest, the judge may issue an arrest warrant. The police typically seek to arrest the defendant as soon as possible.

The defendant must turn him or herself in before the warrant is satisfied. Unlike a bench warrant, the arrest warrant signals the beginning of the criminal process against you.  

If you know you are likely to receive an arrest warrant consider retaining a criminal defense lawyer beforehand. If you are arrested, he or she can show up at the bail review the next day and argue in your favor. You can also talk to a bail bondsman. Judges in Maryland are retreating from setting high cash bail amounts, meaning fewer defendants remain behind bars because they are unable to afford bail in Maryland.

How Do You Know If You Have a Maryland Arrest Warrant on File?

If the police don’t knock on your door and you believe you have a Maryland arrest warrant, you should take steps to find out. You can go to the courthouse in person but will likely be arrested and taken into custody on the spot if an official identified you. You can send a friend to make inquiries or check the computers.

You can also phone the court clerk anonymously. Be aware, your number could be traced. The best option is to carry out a Maryland judiciary case search. You should be able to find out if a warrant was issued for your arrest by entering your name in the system.

You can also get your criminal defense lawyer to check on your behalf. The lawyer is not allowed to disclose your personal information under attorney/client privilege which means the involvement of counsel won’t trigger you being taken into custody. Involving a lawyer will help you draw up a strategy and improve your chances of getting bail. Lawyers can file a motion to remove certain types of warrants such as bench warrants. However, your initial arrest warrant typically stands and it’s important to deal with the issue as soon as possible.

What Happens if You Receive a Maryland Bench Warrant?

Bench warrants are the most common types of warrants in Maryland and elsewhere. They are also known as failure to appear warrants. Although you may hear them referred to as arrest warrants, they are issued for your failure to show up at a hearing at a particular stage of the criminal process rather than at the start of criminal proceedings as with most arrest warrants. For example, you may fail to show up in court for an arraignment hearing in which you are asked to plead guilty or not guilty to charges. 

If you fail to show up for a serious charge, the court may issue an arrest warrant at that time and send officers to your home. You can receive a bench warrant if you were ordered to show up in court by summons or a prior arrest and you don’t appear. Bench warrants can also be issued for violations of probation. This could be for failing to keep a scheduled court hearing or even not showing up for your scheduled meeting with your probation officer.

Bench warrants don’t lapse if you ignore them. They remain on your file. In Maryland, a police officer may not necessarily come to your home over a bench warrant. It’s a different story for an arrest warrant. However, if a police officer stops you for another matter such as a traffic violation and runs your name through the computer, he will discover the bench warrant and likely take you into custody.

As in the case of an arrest warrant, you should take active steps to find out if a judge issued a bench warrant against you in Maryland. Make discreet inquiries, check with the online courts database or get a criminal defense attorney to check for you. The documentation you received from the court should detail your appearance date and spell out the consequences of being absent.

Failure to appear for a citation in Maryland can result in up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. Failure to appear for jury service carries a potential sentence of up to 60 days and a fine up to $1,000. People who don’t appear for a misdemeanor offense given by a Natural Resources police officer face a fine of $100.

How a Maryland Bench Warrant Lawyer Can Help You

If you receive a bench warrant in Maryland you can turn yourself in at the court. You may be jailed. Bench warrants for more serious offenses are often not backed with bail. It’s prudent to talk to a Maryland bench warrant lawyer as soon as you realize or suspect a bench warrant is out there with your name on it.

You may have had a valid excuse for missing a court date such as a serious family illness. You could have been injured in a car wreck. Many people who miss court appearances make a genuine oversight. They have busy lives. They thought a DUI court appearance was later in the month.

An attorney can file a motion to quash or overturn a bench warrant. If the lawyer argues your case successfully before a judge the warrant is discarded and you are given another court hearing. This means you will not serve jail time for failure to appear, don’t have to worry about bail, avoid a fine and have a second chance. The result of the failure to hear motion has no bearing on the eventual result of your case.

Talk to an Experienced MD. Bench Warrant Lawyer As Soon as Possible

If you are confused about the difference between a warrant and a bench warrant in Maryland, your Maryland warrant lawyer can answer all of your questions. Baltimore criminal defense lawyer Randolph Rice has helped people served with arrest and bench warrants for over 10 years in and elsewhere in the state. He has close knowledge of the courts in the state and has made hundreds of appearances. Please contact us today for a free consultation.


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