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What is the Difference Between an Arrest Warrant and a Bench Warrant?

Arrest Warrants

An arrest warrant gives law enforcement officers the authority to put you under arrest if they come into contact with you.  In Washington, D.C., a judge has to sign off on an arrest warrant before it can be issued.  Usually,  arrest warrants are issued when a new crime is believed to have occurred.

In order for the government to charge you with a new crime, you first have to be processed, or "booked" at a police station.  Being processed allows the police to properly identify you.  It requires the police take your mug shot and fingerprint to put into a police database.

Probable Cause

The booking process can be very invasive.  This is why the contents of an arrest warrant are very important.  The arrest warrant provides the basis for your arrest.  An arrest warrant is required to summarize why you are suspected of committing a crime.  Most importantly, arrest warrants must provide probable cause to support your arrest.  Probable cause is a legal standard that requires the police to show that a crime has been committed and that you are the one who likely committed the crime.  If you were charged with an offense where there was no probable cause to support your arrest, you may be able to fight your charge based on a possible illegal arrest.

Bench Warrants

A bench warrant also gives law enforcement officers the authority to arrest you.  The difference between an arrest warrant and a bench warrant is that bench warrants are usually issued by judges when you fail to appear for court.  In Washington, D.C., when you have a court hearing, you usually have to sign notice to appear in court.  Sometimes the court will also mail you a notice to appear for court.  In these instances,  because you were already notified about your court date, the judge can issue the bench warrant for your arrest.

Bail Reform Act (BRA)

In D.C. Superior Court, if there is a bench warrant issued for you in an ongoing criminal matter and you previously signed notice to appear for court, you can be charged with a new offense under the Bail Reform Act (BRA).  BRA charges in DC have mandatory minimum jail sentences.  This is why it is always important to avoid bench warrants when you are facing criminal charges.

Contact Us

If you have been arrested for a crime, make sure to have a criminal defense lawyer by your side.  Your lawyer may be able to fight your charge and have certain evidence thrown out of your case if you were illegally arrested.  Even if you missed a court date and a bench warrant was issued for your arrest, a good lawyer can still fight against a new BRA charge.

To talk to a Washington, D.C. criminal defense lawyer about your arrest warrant or bench warrant , call (202) 403- 2292 or contact us  today to schedule a consultation.

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