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Do You Have A Warrant For Your Arrest in Los Angeles?

Every day unsuspecting motorists who are pulled over for traffic violations find themselves taken into custody instead of merely receiving a traffic ticket. This happens when a police officer discovers the motorist has an outstanding bench warrant. Bench warrants differ from arrest warrants. Bench warrants are often issued due to an individual’s oversight of their legal responsibilities, rather than the result of an overt crime. Judges commonly issue bench warrants for failure to pay child support, failure to pay traffic tickets, or failure to appear in court.

A bench warrant differs from an arrest warrant in both purpose and process. Judges issue arrest warrants when authorities accuse someone of having committed a crime. Arrest warrants are used to apprehend suspected criminals, advance criminal investigations, and hopefully reduce the crime rate. Judges issue them after considering the results of police investigations. Officers have to prove sufficient grounds to believe a crime was committed and that the accused was the perpetrator to seek an arrest warrant.

Bench warrants are used to enforce court rulings or judgments. A court ruling or judgment happens whenever the court issues an instruction regarding pending or past actions. For example, consider what happens after police issue a speeding ticket. Traffic citations usually include a predetermined court date, or an option to pay a fine and admit the infraction. If for some reason the offender misses that date and fails to pay the ticket, the judge may issue a bench warrant to bring the offender before the court to respond to the traffic citation.

Bench warrants assume even more gravity involving decisions the court has already made, such as child support agreements. California takes failure to pay child support more seriously now than it did several decades ago. In cases of child support, one has already been to court. The judge has already heard the arguments from both sides and rendered a decision. The judge has ruled a set amount the parent must pay by set dates. Such existing determinations leave nothing for judges to consider when prosecutors allege failure to pay child support and a judge can order a bench warrant with no need for further deliberation.

A bench warrant lacks the serious criminal implications of an arrest warrant, but it can affect your life just as seriously. Bench warrants are entered into a national database. A warrant issued in Los Angeles might be discovered during a traffic stop anywhere in the nation. When paying child support or a fine is already difficult, missing work due to a bench warrant only makes it harder. Potential employers might find some record of a warrant online without knowing the details, and that could even cost one a job.

Bench warrants are most often issued in situations where someone represents himself or herself in court. Hiring an attorney to represent one’s interests in any court matter can prevent these problems. If unforeseen circumstances keep one from attending court on a designated date, an attorney can stand in and speak for their client’s interests. This can keep bench warrants from ever being issued in the first place.

If a bench warrant has already been issued, an attorney may be able to have it lifted. Judges do not issue bench warrants as forms of punishment, yet they want to assure that individuals take court rulings seriously. If one misses a court date or neglects a child support payment, an attorney can explain the reasons to the court, reschedule hearings or payments, and get the warrant lifted before it can hamper one’s life.

Of course, the best way to avoid a warrant for failure to appear in court is not to miss a court date. The best way to stay in family court’s good graces is to pay child support on time. Since any number of unforeseen circumstances might interfere, retaining an attorney from the onset is sensible risk management. 

If you know, or suspect there may be a bench warrant in your name, it is critical to contact a skilled and experienced Los Angeles defense lawyer as soon as possible. You could be pulled over by a police officer at any time and taken into custody when you least expect it. Contact the Law Offices of Elena Mebtahi immediately for a free consultation.