How To Handle A Bench Warrant In New York

by ECL Writer
What Is A Criminal Complaint?

Dealing with a bench warrant in New York can be a daunting and stressful experience. A bench warrant is a court order that authorizes law enforcement officers to arrest an individual who has failed to comply with a court order or failed to appear in court as required. If you or someone you know has been issued a bench warrant in New York, it is essential to understand the proper steps to take to handle the situation effectively. This Eastcoastlaws.com article will provide you with practical tips and advice on how to deal with a bench warrant in New York, including what to do if you have been arrested, how to turn yourself in, and how to work with an attorney to resolve the warrant. Whether you are facing a bench warrant for a traffic violation or a more serious offense, this article will help you navigate the legal process and protect your rights.

What Is A Bench Warrant For Failure To Appear?

A bench warrant instructs the police to make an arrest and take you into custody. The person is often taken to jail and detained there until the judge is available for a hearing after being arrested by the police for failing to appear. Once a court date is missed in New York, there is a 30-day grace period before a bench warrant is issued. As a result, if a person misses their court appearance, they can typically escape a bench warrant and other charges if they show up in court within 30 days.

But, after 30 days, a bench warrant will typically be issued, and the accused will likely be charged with bail jumping or failing to appear as ordered.

Failure To Respond

When a person is detained by the police in New York for a non-felony offense, the officer may issue an appearance ticket requiring them to appear in court. The individual may also need to post a pre-arraignment bond in order to be released, according to the officer. The court may issue a bench warrant and file charges against the offender for failing to answer an appearance ticket if the person fails to show up for court as required. In New York, this offense is referred to as a “violation”. Similar to a misdemeanor is a violation. Other than a traffic ticket, it is a non-felony offense that carries a maximum fifteen-day jail sentence.

(N.Y. Penal Law, art. 215, §215.58, art 70, §70.15 (2023).)

Bail Jumping Offenses And Penalties In NY

An individual who has been detained or officially charged with a crime must show up for all court dates after being released on their own recognizance or after posting a bond. The judge may issue a bench warrant for the arrest of defendants who miss a court date and charge them with bail jumping in the first, second, or third degree.

Bail Jumping in the First Degree

Failure to appear in a case when one is accused of a Class A or Class B felony constitutes bail jumping in the first degree in New York (including murder, terrorism, kidnapping, rape, assault with a deadly weapon, drug trafficking, conspiracy, bribery, and grand larceny burglary, robbery, and drug trafficking). First-degree bail jumping is a Class D felony that carries a $5,000 maximum punishment and a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.

Bail Jumping in the Second Degree

Failure to appear in a case where one is accused of any criminal constitutes bail jumping in the second degree. Second-degree bail jumping is a Class E felony that carries a maximum four-year prison sentence as well as a $5,000 fine.

(N.Y. Penal Law, art. 215, §215.56, art. 70, §70.00(2)(e) and (4), and art. 80, §80.00 (2023).)

Bail Jumping in the Third Degree

Failure to appear in any proceeding, including one where the person is accused of a misdemeanor or a probation violation, is known as bail jumping in the third degree. Bail jumping in the third degree is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, up to one year in jail, or three years of probation.

Other Consequences Of Failing To Appear

If the police have an arrest warrant for your failure to appear, they are free to detain you whenever and wherever they like. You may be detained by the police at your home, place of employment, a business function, or a social gathering. The court has the authority to forfeit your bail if it determines that your failure to appear was not unavoidable or caused by extenuating circumstances (see below). This means that when the case is complete, the court will keep the bond and you won’t get your money back.

Bail-jumping convictions have repercussions beyond simply putting the offender in jail. In the case you failed to appear in, the prosecutor may present evidence of the bail jumping charge. They may contend before the jury that your absence demonstrates “knowledge of guilt.” In other words, the prosecution may contend that you skipped court because you were aware of your guilt for the crimes for which you jumped bail.

Defenses To Bail Jumping And Failure To Appear In New York

If someone can demonstrate that missing their court date was unavoidable due to circumstances beyond their control, they can argue against bail jumping or failing to reply to an appearance ticket. The catch is that the individual must demonstrate that their failure to appear on the designated date and for the following 30 days was unavoidable. Additionally, they must demonstrate that they willingly appeared in court as soon as possible after the 30-day grace period had passed or that they were unable to do so.

Often, someone can establish this defense when their failure to appear resulted from the following types of situations:

  • a bad car accident
  • hospitalization
  • significant illness
  • death of a close family member
  • being in jail in another location, or
  • the court failing to give notice or accurate notice of the court date.

To beat the charge, someone raising this defense often needs to present some evidence, other than their own word, that circumstances beyond their control prevented them from appearing.

Talk To A Lawyer

You should get legal counsel right once you miss your court date or find out that a bench warrant has been issued for your arrest. You can get guidance from an accomplished criminal defense lawyer, who can also speak with the court on your behalf. If you are formally charged with bail jumping or failing to appear after receiving a summons, a lawyer can help you prepare a case and can speak out for you at the sentencing.

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