I Have a Bench Warrant in Charleston, SC – What Should I Do?
What should I do if I have a bench warrant?
A bench warrant in Charleston, SC is an order from the Court authorizing law enforcement to take you into custody if you are located. They are issued for many different reasons, but the most common reason is that you missed a court date.
Below, I’ll discuss what to do if you find out that there is a bench warrant for your arrest, why the Court issues bench warrants, and, more importantly, how to avoid getting a bench warrant…
What Should I Do if I Have a Bench Warrant in Charleston, SC?
If you discover that you have a bench warrant, contact your attorney immediately. If you don’t have an attorney yet, now is long past time to get a criminal defense lawyer who can, hopefully, get the bench warrant lifted, make sure that you don’t get another one, and handle the underlying charges for you.
If you were picked up on the bench warrant and find yourself in jail without a bond, get your family to contact a criminal defense attorney who can meet with you and go to work on getting a hearing scheduled to lift the bench warrant.
If you have not been arrested yet, but you are aware there is a bench warrant for your arrest, go and meet with your attorney now – although there are no guarantees, your attorney may be able to get the bench warrant lifted before it is served on you…
What Happens if I Have a Bench Warrant?
A bench warrant is a document authorizing law enforcement to take you into custody if you are located – sheriff’s deputies may show up at your house or workplace to serve it on you, or you could be taken into custody any time you have contact with police and they check for warrants.
If you have not been taken into custody and you avoid police contact (don’t speed and use your turn signal), your attorney may be able to get the bench warrant lifted before you are arrested. If you have been arrested, you may have to wait in jail for the court to schedule a hearing to lift the bench warrant – you cannot post bond and will not be released until the bench warrant is lifted.
How Do I Get a Bench Warrant Lifted?
Sometimes, your attorney can talk to your prosecutor, explain the misunderstanding that led to the bench warrant being issued, and get your prosecutor to consent to lift the bench warrant.
More often, however, your attorney will need to get a hearing scheduled to lift the bench warrant. Your attorney will explain to the court the circumstances that led to the bench warrant and, if it is the first time this has happened, may be able to get the court to lift the bench warrant with assurances that your attorney will ensure that you know when your court dates are and that you will appear in court next time.
If you are in jail and your prosecutor does not consent to lift the bench warrant, you will have to remain in jail until the court schedules your hearing.
If you are not in jail, your attorney can file the motion to lift your bench warrant and get a hearing scheduled. You will have to appear at the hearing – if the court does not lift the bench warrant, you will be taken into custody at the hearing.
If the court does lift the bench warrant (note that voluntarily showing up at the hearing helps your attorney’s argument that you will appear in court in the future), you are in the clear so long as you appear at all future court dates.
How Do I Find Out if I Have a Bench Warrant in Charleston, SC?
Many people find out that they have a bench warrant when they are pulled over for speeding and then taken to jail. Or, when the sheriff shows up at your door and puts handcuffs on you…
If you call them, law enforcement may not tell you that you have a bench warrant, because they don’t want you to evade arrest. Regardless, do not call the police department, sheriff’s office, clerk’s officer, or prosecutor’s office if you have pending charges.
The best and safest way to confirm whether you have a bench warrant is to talk to your attorney and let them find out for you – if you don’t have a Charleston, SC criminal defense lawyer, now is the time to call one.
When Does the Court Issue a Bench Warrant?
Courts issue bench warrants for:
- Failure to appear;
- Failure to pay fines or court costs in misdemeanor cases;
- Failure to pay child support; or
- Any other situation where a defendant has violated the conditions of their bond or there is a need to take a person into custody.
The most common cause of a bench warrant in Charleston, SC is failure to appear in a criminal case.
Magistrate and Municipal Court Dates in Charleston, SC
In most cases, if you miss an initial court date in the magistrate or municipal court, you will be found guilty in your absence. If you are sentenced to jail time, a bench warrant will be issued. If you are sentenced to pay a fine, a bench warrant might be issued, but it will usually be withdrawn once you pay the amount of your fine.
If you have a pending charge in the magistrate or municipal court, you must either show up on your initial court date (which is either a guilty plea date or a bench trial date), confirm in writing that your court date has been continued, or request a jury trial.
Once you or your attorney request a jury trial, the initial court date no longer exists and the court or your attorney will let you know when the next court date is (usually a roster meeting or pretrial conference).
General Sessions Court Dates in Charleston, SC
If you are charged with a General Sessions-level offense, you will have two roll call dates that are automatically scheduled.
If you have retained an attorney, your attorney may be able to get you excused from your initial appearance. Your attorney will confirm that you are excused, preferably in writing so there are no misunderstandings later, and you will not need to appear.
Your attorney may also get you excused from future “roll calls,” but you should always assume that you must appear on roll call dates or other court appearances until your attorney has confirmed that you are excused.
How Can I Avoid a Bench Warrant?
Keep all documents that are given to you in your case. Read every document carefully, and make sure that you know when each court date is in each case that you have. Calendar those court dates, and calendar reminders a week before and the day before.
Be aware that, if you were arrested multiple times, you will have multiple initial appearances and roll call dates – your attorney may get your excused from them, but, if you just don’t show up, the court will issue a bench warrant.
Don’t try to get magistrate or municipal court dates continued on your own – this is often a source of confusion (and bench warrants, and convictions in absence) when there is a communication breakdown between the clerk or other court staff and the defendant who is trying to get a continuance.
Get a criminal defense lawyer asap. Stay in touch with your attorney and check in regularly. Rely on your attorney to track your court dates, keep you informed, and get you excused whenever possible.
Charleston, SC Bench Warrant Lawyer
Charleston, SC criminal defense attorney Grant B. Smaldone represents people charged with crimes in SC state and federal courts.
If you have been picked up on a bench warrant or have found out that there is a bench warrant for your arrest in the Charleston, Georgetown, or Myrtle Beach areas of SC, call now at (843) 808-2100 or contact us by email to schedule a free consultation.