Louisiana judges issue many types of warrants, but one of the most common is bench warrants. Unlike others, you can easily have a bench warrant and be completely unaware of it. Oftentimes, it takes an individual getting over for a minor traffic violation to know about a warrant for their arrest.
The more you know about bench warrants, the better you can avoid actions that may result in a judge issuing one for you. You’ll also know how to appropriately respond to a bench warrant to ensure the most favorable conclusion to your legal issue. Our knowledgeable legal team at John D. & Eric G. Johnson Law Firm is here to help you understand the details of Louisiana bench warrants, so they never catch you off guard.
What Is a Bench Warrant?
Bench warrants are written orders from a judge that authorize an officer to bring you to jail and then to court. These types of warrants are unlike the ones you may already know. Typically, judges issue arrest warrants for serious crimes that require evidence presented to a jury and a prosecutor making a case to a judge.
In the case of bench warrants, judges issue them for minor offenses that often involve paying a fine or meeting a court requirement. If a bench warrant is out for your arrest, you do not need to worry about law enforcement showing up at your home or job to arrest you. Law enforcement doesn’t actively pursue individuals with warrants, which is why many people are unaware that they have one against them.
Instead, any encounter with police could result in an arrest if you have a bench warrant. If someone rear-ends you and the reporting police officer discovers your bench warrant after running your name through the system, they can arrest you on the spot. You may also become aware of an outstanding bench warrant due to a potential employer conducting a background check.
Why Are Bench Warrants Issued?
While all arrest warrants are serious matters, offenses that result in the issuance of bench warrants are often minor. Some of the most common reasons why judges issue bench warrants include the following:
- Failing to respond to a traffic citation within the given time period
- Not complying with a custody agreement
- Violating a no-contact order
- Failing to appear for jury duty
- Refusing to hand over the property to the court
- Failing to appear for trial
- Refusing to pay child support
- Failing to abide by the Marital Settlement Agreement
All of these instances could result in your name being added to the statewide database for Louisiana law enforcement. Therefore, it’s important to keep them in mind to avoid making these mistakes.
How Do You Respond to a Bench Warrant?
Individuals often become aware of a bench warrant against them when interacting with the police. They may have forgotten they missed a court hearing or ticket payment. In such cases, it is crucial that you do not wait for law enforcement to arrest you before you take action.
If you are arrested, you’ll be required to post bail, which will likely be an accumulation of court costs, fines, and administrative fees to cover the primary offense and the failure to appear. Once you pay the bail, you will be released from custody and assigned a new court date. However, if the judge has reason to believe that you will flee or miss the court date, they may refuse to set a bail which would require you to stay in jail until your court date.
Preferably, you would call the court where the bench warrant originated and make arrangements to settle the issue. In the best-case scenario, they’ll allow you to pay the bail and issue a new court date, but this is not always the case. Some jurisdictions require you to turn yourself in before you can see the judge and plead your case.
How to Check if a Warrant Is Out for Your Arrest in Louisiana
If you suspect you may have a bench warrant out for your arrest, you have a few options to determine whether your name is in the database. These options include the following:
- In-person: You can go to the courthouse and have them do a warrant search for you or approach a police officer who can run your name through the database. This may seem the most straightforward, but law enforcement can take you into custody if you have a warrant out for your arrest.
- Online: Louisiana allows public access to arrest warrant databases. You can go to the website of your local police department, input your name into the search query, and discover your status. However, the public database isn’t always up to date.
- Over the phone: You can also call your local police department to have them search the database for your name. However, law enforcement will often only provide limited information over the phone and may suggest you visit the courthouse for more information.
In order to potentially avoid being taken into custody and having to pay bail, it is recommended to utilize the online database to determine whether or not you have a bench warrant.
How Can a Criminal Defense Lawyer Help With a Bench Warrant?
If you find out about a bench warrant before law enforcement arrests you, a criminal defense lawyer may help you find the best path forward. Your attorney can call the appropriate parties to get information on your warrant, including the reason for issuance, the amount you owe, and how you can satisfy the requirements. In many cases, being proactive about your bench warrant can be highly beneficial because the court may permit you to pay what’s owed directly to the court clerk without having to go in front of the judge. In the best case, a Louisiana criminal defense lawyer may be able to help resolve a bench warrant without you being arrested or getting the warrant dropped.
However, depending on your bench warrant circumstances, you may be required to turn yourself in and schedule a court hearing. In this instance, your lawyer may explain to the judge why you disobeyed a court order, failed to pay a fine, or missed a court hearing. An attorney can also clarify to the judge that your actions were not in blatant disregard to the court system but rather a simple mistake. Ultimately, an attorney can help ensure you do not face any further unnecessary consequences.
Contact a Skilled Louisiana Criminal Defense Lawyer at John D. & Eric G. Johnson Law Firm
If you discover you have a bench warrant issued against you, you may be worried about the consequences and figuring out the next steps. Fortunately, our experienced and professional legal team may be able to help you understand what a bench warrant entails and provide you with high-quality representation.
At John D. & Eric G. Johnson Law Firm, our experienced Louisiana criminal defense lawyers have helped many individuals dealing with various types of warrants. We implement our legal knowledge and innovative negotiation strategies to help settle your legal issues on the most favorable terms. Call us at (318) 377-1555 or fill out our contact form for a free case consultation.