Louisiana judges issue many types of warrants, but one of the most common are bench warrants. Unlike others, one can easily have a bench warrant and be completely unaware of it. Oftentimes, it takes an individual to get pulled over for a minor traffic violation for them to become aware of a warrant for their arrest, effectively turning a routine traffic stop into you being placed in handcuffs.
The more you know about bench warrants, the better you can avoid actions that can 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. Join us as we explore everything you need to know about Louisiana bench warrants.
What is a Bench Warrant?
Bench warrants are written orders from a judge that authorizes an officer to bring you to jail and then to court. These types of warrants are unlike the ones you have in mind. Typical arrest warrants are issued by judges for serious crimes that require evidence to be presented to a grand jury and a prosecutor to make a case to a judge.
Judges issue bench warrants 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 take you away in cuffs. Law enforcement doesn’t actively pursue individuals with warrants which is why many people are unaware that they have one out against them.
Instead, any encounter you have with police can result in an arrest if you have a bench warrant. If someone rear ends you and the reporting police officer runs your name through the system and discovers your bench warrant, he can arrest you on the spot. One may also become aware of an outstanding bench warrant as a result of a potential employer conducting a background check.
Why are Bench Warrants Issued?
Although 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:
- 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 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 and more can result in your name being put into the statewide database for Louisiana law enforcement.
How Do You Respond to a Bench Warrant?
There are often instances when individuals are made aware of their outstanding bench warrant or remember that they forget to attend a court hearing or pay a ticket. 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’ll 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 again, he can refuse to set a bail which will require you to stay in jail until your court date.
The more favorable option would be to 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 that you turn yourself in before you can see the judge and plead your case
How to Check if a Warrant is Out for Your Arrest
If you suspect that you may have a bench warrant out for your arrest, you have a few options in determining whether your name is in the database. You can choose to verify in-person, online, or over the phone:
- In-Person: You can go down to the courthouse and have them do a warrant search for you or simply approach a police officer who can run your name through the database. This option may seem to be the most straightforward, but if it comes back that you do have a warrant out for your arrest, law enforcement can take you into police custody.
- Online: Louisiana allows public access to arrest warrant databases. By merely going to the website of your local police department, you can input your name into the search query and discover your status. The only drawback, however, is that the public database isn’t always up to date.
- Over the Phone: You can also call the 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 that you visit the courthouse for more information.
Utilizing the Help of a Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you find out about an arrest warrant before law enforcement arrests you, be sure to reach out to a local criminal defense lawyer. Your attorney can call the appropriate parties to get information on your warrant including the reason for it, the amount you owe, and how you can go about satisfying the requirements. In many instances, being proactive about your bench warrant can be highly beneficial as the court may permit you to pay what’s owed directly to the clerk of court without having to go in front of the judge.
Depending on the circumstances of your bench warrant, however, you may be required to turn yourself in and schedule a court hearing. In such instances, your lawyer can make your case to the judge as to why you disobeyed a court order, failed to pay a fine, or missed a court hearing. He can also explain to the judge that your actions were not in blatant disregard to the court system, but rather a simple mistake. Ultimately, having an attorney can help ensure that you do not face any further unnecessary consequences.
Eric G. Johnson of the John D. & Eric G. Johnson Law Firm is a seasoned Louisiana criminal defense lawyer who has helped many individuals dealing with various types of warrants. He can implement his legal knowledge and negotiation strategies to help settle your legal issues on the most favorable terms. Contact us today at 318-377-1555 for a free case evaluation.
Frequently Asked Questions About Louisiana Bench Warrants
What is the difference between a bench warrant and an outstanding warrant?
Bench warrants are written orders from a judge authorizing an officer to bring you to jail and then to court. Usually, a person can get a bench warrant for missing a court date. Judges issue arrest warrants to give police officers authorization to arrest persons accused of serious crimes that require evidence to be presented to a grand jury. An outstanding bench warrant could result in you being arrested when you are stopped by police for an unrelated event, such as a traffic violation, because police officers are not actively looking to arrest you. With an arrest warrant, you are arrested on the spot when police take you into custody.
How can I clear up a warrant without going to jail?
If you learn about an outstanding bench warrant in your name, it’s crucial that you don’t wait for law enforcement to arrest you before you take action. If you do get arrested, you’ll be required to post bail. Once you pay the bail, you’ll be released from custody and assigned a new court date. A Louisiana criminal defense lawyer may be able to help you resolve a bench warrant without you being arrested.
Can police search your house with a bench warrant?
Judges issue bench warrants for minor offenses that often involve failure to pay a fine or meeting a court requirement. If a bench warrant is out for your arrest, you don’t need to worry about law enforcement showing up at your home or job to take you away in handcuffs. Law enforcement doesn’t actively pursue individuals with bench warrants.
What are Louisiana bench warrant laws?
Louisiana judges issue many types of warrants, and bench warrants are among the most common. The more you know about bench warrants, the easier it is to avoid actions that can result in a judge issuing one for you. If you have a bench warrant, and you have not been arrested, you should contact a Louisiana criminal lawyer to learn more about your warrant.