We all forget things from time to time; it’s part of life.
But sometimes we even forget really important things—including court appearances.
If you’ve missed your court appearance, you might be wondering if you have a bench warrant out for your arrest.
You might also worry that you could go to jail because you missed court.
Not addressing a missed court date because you’re afraid of going to jail will only make matters worse.
Our knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys have the skills you need to help keep you out of jail.
What Is a Bench Warrant?
You may have heard the term and wondered, What is a bench warrant? The bench warrant meaning is unfamiliar to many people.
A bench warrant is a warrant for your arrest issued by a judge rather than at the request of the police.
Despite the distinction between the issuing authority, there is no fundamental difference between an arrest warrant and a bench warrant in Ohio.
Both authorize law enforcement to take the wanted person into custody and bring that person before the judge.
In fact, a police officer has no discretion but to arrest you once the officer learns there is a warrant out for your arrest.
What Happens If You Forget Your Court Date?
Every person who has a case pending before an Ohio criminal court must go to court as scheduled.
The judge can and likely will issue a bench warrant if you miss criminal court dates.
The court clerk enters the bench warrant into the court’s computer system, and that system alerts the local police. The warrant may also appear in the state DMV database.
The police can come to your home, or workplace, or stop you in public to arrest you on a warrant.
People with warrants often get arrested when police stop them for a motor vehicle infraction.
When the officer runs the driver’s information, the arrest warrant pops up, giving the officer no choice but to arrest you.
What Happens After Your Arrest on a Bench Warrant?
The Ohio Rules of Criminal Procedure set out the process that police and courts follow after your arrest.
The officer in charge of the booking facility must obey the orders on the warrant. Some warrants are not bailable, while others might order you to post a high bond.
If your charges are misdemeanors, the officer in charge can issue a summons if they believe you will appear in court instead of holding you in jail.
The officer can clear the warrant from the system after issuing the summons. Otherwise, you have to wait until the judge cancels the warrant when you go to court.
The officer in charge does not have the authority to release you with a summons if you have felony charges.
How to Clear a Bench Warrant Without Going to Jail
People miss court for a variety of reasons. Sometimes people simply forget. Other times, people intentionally skip court because they’re afraid of what could happen if they go.
Conflicts can also arise in people’s lives. Even though going to court is the right thing to do, life doesn’t always make that easy.
You might have child care issues, car troubles, or a sick parent who needs care on the same day you have to go to court.
Also, your court notice might have gone to your old address without you knowing about it.
Whatever the reason for missing court, the next steps you take determine what could happen when you ultimately appear before a judge. You cannot hide from a warrant forever.
So the question is, do you want to walk into court to remove the warrant voluntarily or be forced to appear after getting arrested?
If you appear with your lawyer voluntarily, you have a greater chance of not going to jail.
Your lawyer could present arguments and successfully argue that the court should not remand you to jail or have you post a high bail.
A good lawyer can explain that you had a valid excuse for missing court and assure the judge that you will appear as ordered going forward.
Additionally, having a competent and respected criminal lawyer shows that you respect the court and are serious about making the rest of your court dates.
On the other hand, remaining on the run and hoping the case never catches up to you shows that you are a flight risk.
So if you continue to try to elude law enforcement, a judge can raise your bail, hold you in jail without bail, or add conditions of release to make sure you return to court.
Remove Your Bench Warrant with Confidence
Our award-winning and reputable criminal defense lawyers can work with you to remove your warrant and help you stay out of jail.
We have more than 50 years of combined experience, and we enjoy a great professional reputation in the legal community.
We’ve won numerous recognitions and awards, including being named in the Ohio Super Lawyers List, making the Top 100 Trial Lawyers List from the National Trial Lawyers Association, and we enjoy an excellent 10 out of 10 rating on AVVO.
Not acting on a bench warrant and waiting to see what happens next only makes matters worse. So don’t hesitate.