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What is a Bench Warrant?


Stephen Shepard

Stephen Shepard is the Principal Attorney and Counselor at Law at The Law Office of Stephen P. Shepard, LLC in Towson, MD.

A bench warrant is a court order issued and signed by a judge that authorizes a law enforcement officer to lawfully take a person into police custody. Once taken into police custody, the person is then generally brought before the judge that issued the bench warrant or another judicial officer, such as a District Court Commissioner, to make a determination as to what happens next. There are generally only a handful of reasons as to why a court may issue a bench warrant, however, bench warrants are very common. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you try to get the bench warrant quashed or recalled and replaced with a summons.

Why Might a Judge Issue a Bench Warrant?

There are several reasons why a judge might issue a bench warrant for a person’s arrest. The most common reasons that our criminal defense law firm sees are an alleged violation of probation, an alleged violation of a pre-trial release condition, and failing to appear in court when notified to do so.

Violation of Probation

People who are convicted of a criminal offense are often placed on probation in lieu of incarceration with certain terms and conditions of that probation as set forth by the court. When it is alleged that a Defendant has violated one or more term(s) or condition(s) of his or her probation, Maryland law authorizes a judge to initiate proceedings for a violation of probation by issuing either a summons or a bench warrant. If the judge decides to issue a bench warrant, then a law enforcement officer is authorized to lawfully arrest and take the Defendant into police custody.

Violation of Pre-Trial Release Condition

People who are charged with one or more criminal offenses are often released on their own pending trial with one or more pre-trial release conditions being set by the court. For example, it is common to see a no contact order in place with regard to the alleged victim in cases of an alleged assault. If a Defendant pending trial were to violate a pre-trial release condition, then a judge is authorized by law to issue a warrant for the Defendant’s arrest.

Failure to Appear

A Defendant in a criminal, DUI/DWI, or serious traffic case who fails to appear for court on his or her court date will likely have a bench warrant issued for his or her arrest. There are often many valid reasons why someone may miss a required court appearance. For example, some people may not have reliable transportation or may have an urgent medical issue that comes up. Despite having a valid reason for being absent, a Defendant who is not present in court or “fails to appear” when his or her case is called by the prosecutor is very likely to have a bench warrant issued for his or her arrest.

What Can Be Done About a Bench Warrant?

A private attorney, a public defender, or the Defendant may file a motion with the court that issued the bench warrant requesting that the warrant be recalled or “quashed” and provide one or more reasons (sometimes with supporting exhibits or documentation) in furtherance of the request. The judge will then review the request and make a decision as to whether the warrant should be recalled or not. While the Defendant may file this request on his or her own, the request is much more likely to be granted if properly filed by a local criminal defense attorney who has the training and experience with such matters.

For those Defendants with an active warrant who wish to file a motion on their own asking the court to recall or “quash” the warrant, click here to download a blank motion form from the court’s website.

Baltimore County, MD Bench Warrant Attorney

Our Principal Attorney has extensive experience in helping people deal with an active bench warrant. Contact our office for a free consultation with an experienced Baltimore County, MD criminal defense attorney to discuss how our criminal defense law firm can help you with an outstanding bench warrant. If you have an active bench warrant, chances are that the police are already looking for you. Therefore, time is of the essence in addressing an active bench warrant – don’t delay, contact our office today for help!

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