How Serious is a Baltimore Bench Warrant?

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A Baltimore bench warrant is usually issued for failure to appear in a courtroom or breach of probation. The consequences of not showing up in court are usually far-reaching. You should ask a Baltimore criminal defense lawyer how serious is a Baltimore bench warrant.

At Rice, Murtha & Psoras, we have helped out people who receive bench warrants for over a decade from our Baltimore offices. Although a bench warrant should never be taken lightly, don’t panic if you received one. A Baltimore bench warrant attorney can talk to you about legal strategies to get a bench warrant dismissed.

What is a Baltimore Bench Warrant?

Bench warrants have been around for many years. They gained their name because they were issued when a defendant failed to appear on the bench in front of a judge. Bench warrants are also known as failure to appear warrants, FTA charges or FTA bench warrants.

Bench warrants differ from arrest warrants because they are not issued to initiate the first criminal action. The judge issues a bench warrant because of your failure to appear in court for an original charge. The underlying offense could be a misdemeanor such as a “must appear” traffic violation that might not otherwise land you in jail. Must appear traffic offenses in Maryland include DUIs, evading police, and leaving the scene of an accident. 

A Baltimore bench warrant may also be issued for a probation violation such as failing to attend a court hearing. 

Failure to appear is considered a serious violation of the law. A bench warrant can result in your arrest, misdemeanor charges, time in jail, and fines of up to $1,000. Don’t take a Baltimore bench warrant lightly and assume it will go away. Justice has a habit of catching up with you at the most unexpected moments.

Does a Baltimore Bench Warrant Expire?

No. A Baltimore Bench warrant is not something that goes away. If you ignore a bench warrant, the consequences are likely to become more serious over time and it will be more difficult for you to argue it was an oversight and you should not be jailed. 

Unlike a regular arrest warrant, a bench warrant does not automatically initiate attempts to find you. A police officer may serve a bench warrant at your home, particularly in the case of felonies. However, often police do not serve bench warrants and the onus is on you to find out you are in breach for failure to appear at a Baltimore court.

If you do nothing, a bench warrant will remain on your file for years. The next time the neighbors complain about noise from your home or a police officer stops you for a minor traffic infraction and runs your name on the computer, the officer will realize you have an outstanding Baltimore bench warrant. 

Is a Baltimore Bench Warrant Restricted to Maryland?

If you are picked up by law enforcement officials out of Maryland the outstanding bench warrant will appear on a search in all 50 states. The arresting police officer will usually inform the authorities in Baltimore about the existence of your bench warrant. A Maryland bench warrant is not something to run from, and you must make sure to take it seriously. 

Should You Turn Yourself in for a Baltimore Bench Warrant?

If you know the court issued a bench warrant you can turn yourself in without a lawyer. However, it makes sense to talk to a Baltimore bench warrant lawyer as soon as possible to fight your bench warrant on your behalf. 

An attorney can explain to you how serious a Baltimore bench warrant is. The lawyer will outline the best steps to avoid jail. Although a judge or a commissioner grants bail to many people who receive a bench warrant there are no guarantees of release. People charged with felonies are more likely to languish in jail until their next scheduled court hearing that can be weeks away.

Your lawyer can work with you on an acceptable reason to counter a Baltimore bench warrant.  Your Maryland failure to appear lawyer will put forward the reasons for your non-appearance and file a motion to recall the warrant.

Hiring a criminal defense lawyer is a good initial step. The judge will realize you know how serious a Baltimore bench warrant is and are taking steps to address the situation because you seek professional legal help. Your lawyer will set out the reasons why you were not in court.  You may have had a valid reason such as a serious illness or an accident. Even if you forgot, the attorney can argue it was an honest oversight.

Does Receiving a Baltimore Bench Warrant Always Mean Jail?

A Baltimore bench warrant does not necessarily always mean the recipient will end up in jail. The judge has a lot of discretion in bench warrant cases. When your lawyer files a motion to recall the warrant, officially known as a “Motion to Quash,” it gives you a good chance to avoid jail. You can also file a motion without a lawyer, although this can be stressful and challenging..

If the Judge grants the motion to quash, the court has the option to issue a summons for the defendant to appear at a later court or at the trial date. You have a better chance of avoiding jail when a motion to quash is filed. If you turn yourself in, you may be jailed.

Ask a Lawyer How Serious a Baltimore Bench Warrant Is

At Rice, Murtha & Psoras, we are here to answer all of your questions and help you map a path that will keep you out of jail. Attorney Randolph Rice has been working as a Baltimore-based criminal defense lawyer for over a decade. Before setting up his own firm to help people he worked as an Assistant State’s Attorney with the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office. He has a long working knowledge of the city’s criminal law courts. Given the seriousness of receiving a Baltimore bench warrant, it’s important to act fast to maximize your chances of staying out of jail. Please contact us at (410) 431-0911.


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