New York City Bench Warrant Lawyer

An arrest or a bench warrant is an order for a person’s immediate arrest. Warrants for arrest can arise in numerous situations. The warrant may be derived from a variety of minor non-criminal incidents such as unpaid parking tickets or an unanswered summons. For example, if you have been issued a summons for a non-criminal action, such as possession of an open container (of alcohol in public), being in the park after dark, public urination or littering, and you did not appear in court for the return on the summons, a warrant will be ordered. If you already have a pending criminal matter and you miss a court appearance, a judge may order a warrant for your arrest. Additionally, if you have pled guilty to a crime or a non-criminal violation, and were ordered to complete community service or pay a fine, and did not follow through, a warrant may be ordered.

Having an open warrant exposes an individual to be picked up by the police and taken either immediately to the police station or to the courthouse. Depending on the time of day, an individual picked up on a warrant may have to spend a night in jail, even if the offense for which the warrant was generated is not an offense punishable by jail time. Because of the seriousness of this situation, you should contact a New York City bench warrant lawyer.

How Do Bench Warrants Work with Search and Seizure?

Any time a person is stopped in a vehicle, whether they are the driver or the passenger, the police typically run all the names of the vehicle’s occupants through their internal system to see if any open warrants exist. Considering the recent Supreme Court case, Utah v. Strieff, decided on June 20, 2016, the police now have even more of a reason to stop drivers and pedestrians and run warrant checks.

In Utah v. Strieff, 59 U.S. (June 20, 2016) the Supreme Court ruled that if the police stop and search an individual in violation of their fourth amendment constitutional rights and recover contraband, this evidence will not be suppressed on the basis of an illegal search and seizure if the individual has an open warrant. For example, if you are walking down the street and a police officer stops and searches you because he does not like color of your skin or the way you are dressed – and drugs are allegedly recovered – this evidence, which previously would have been suppressed at trial due to the illegal nature of the search, is now admissible. Practically speaking, this ruling essentially allows the police to stop and search individuals for no reason at all. If it turns out the individual stopped has an arrest warrant, the illegal recovery of any contraband becomes validated. Open warrants become a backdoor to admit illegally obtained evidence against an accused.

What Are the Degrees of Bail Jumping Under State Law?

In many cases, bench warrants are ordered after someone fails to obey an appearance ticket, which New York Penal Law §215.58 classifies as a violation. If someone fails to appear for a misdemeanor charge, probation violation, or any other criminal court proceeding which they are ordered to attend, they may be charged with bail jumping in the third degree, which New York Penal Law §215.55 categorizes as a class A misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of one year in jail.

Conversely, anyone who fails to appear for any court proceeding related to a felony charge would be charged with bail jumping in the second degree, which New York Penal Law §215.56 defines as a class E felony punishable by up to four years in prison. Finally, bail jumping in the first degree—which entails failing to appear for a proceeding related to a class A or class B felony offense, as per New York Penal Law §215.57—is a class D felony for which the maximum prison sentence could be seven years in length. A New York City attorney could determine what penalties you may be facing if you have a bench warrant in your name and missed your court date.

What are the Potential Defenses to Bail Jumping Allegations?

New York Penal Law §215.59 establishes a statutory defense to a bail jumping or failure to appear charge, but there are strict criteria for when it applies. To contest this kind of charge, a defendant must have missed their court date due to “unavoidable… circumstances beyond [their] control.” Additionally, no more than 30 days may have passed since the assigned court date they missed, and they must have either appeared in court as soon as possible afterward or only failed to appear because of continuing circumstances beyond their control.

What Steps Should a Person with a Bench Warrant Against Them Take?

Because there is a strict deadline on excusing a failure to appear or bail jumping allegation, it is important to act quickly to clear up a bench warrant. Failing to do so could not only lead to you forfeiting your bond if you paid one, but also harsher punishments upon conviction for the original offense and potentially additional criminal charges. If you are subject to a bench warrant, the first and only step should take should be contacting a local attorney to arrange for your voluntary surrender.

Contact a New York City Bench Warrant Attorney

If you or someone you know has an open warrant, you obviously cannot afford to wait any longer to clear it up. Call the top New York City bench warrant lawyers at our firm now before you get picked up by the police. Our team could walk you through the process of clearing up a warrant, making sure that your civil rights are not violated in the process.

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