Need to get a court date to clear a traffic court or misdemeanor bench or arrest warrant? Here is how to get it done.
In a criminal court context, warrants are court orders that force people to show up in court. They present a danger if instant unexpected arrest, and never go away on their own.
When an arrest or bench warrant is issued by a California criminal or traffic court, a defendant must get a court date to deal with the warrant in some way. Usually this means appearing in court and asking for a “recall” of the warrant. Or, if the defendant is in custody already, a setting of “bail” to get the warrant recalled and the defendant released from custody.
|A warrant is really a court order that says a person (defendant) be taken into custody and brought to court. They are most frequently issued because of missed court dates, and may be called a “bench warrant”, Vehicle Code 40508(a) warrant, or even PC853.7 warrant. The numbers and letters usually refer to the law that is the basis of the warrant. For example, a VC40508(a) warrant is one issued because of a Vehicle Code section 40508(a) violation which is a Failure to Appear on a Signed Promise to Appear (traffic ticket).||
Once a warrant is issued by a judge, it must be satisfied or recalled before the original case can move forward.
The procedure for getting a court date on a bench warrant differs form court to court, and differs on the type and severity of the case. But no matter where a case is, getting a court date on a warrant does not happen by itself, unless the defendant gets arrested. To take care of a warrant voluntarily, a defendant must make a court appearance on his or her own and having an Attorney to help you is the best way.
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The best way to deal with a misdemeanor warrant, such as a DUI warrant or bench warrant due to a missed court date (Vehicle Code section 40508(a) or Penal Code section 853.7), is to schedule a court date voluntarily. Don’t wait until they catch you! Voluntary action is the best way to avoid the worst consequences.
Summary of the Warrant Recall Process.
Getting into court is the way to resolve a warrant problem. Criminal and traffic Court dates are usually set by the court clerk, which is where all court scheduling start. There may be a traffic division clerk, a criminal division clerk, or one that does both divisions. In some courts, the court clerk can set dates on their own, without a judge’s approval. In other courts, such as Santa Clara County Superior, a judge must sign a request for a court date on a warrant, and then the court clerk enters the judge’s date on the calendar. It is important on misdemeanor criminal division warrants to find out in advance if you need to get a Judge’s signature – especially in Santa Clara County.
Once a defendant appears in court, the purpose of the warrant is satisfied: – the defendant has shown up in court. But that is not enough alone to get a warrant recalled. A defendant with a warrant must ask the judge to recall the warrant – and the judge has a choice – lock up the defendant, or allow release on some terms. The judge may release a person on their “own recognizance” (for free) or require payment of a bail bond to ensure future compliance.
Recall is usually done by convincing the judge that the defendant is ready to take care of the case correctly without having to go into custody at the jail immediately. A defendant may do this alone, but a skilled Criminal Defense Attorney’s help in this process is valuable.
Warrants from Traffic Tickets.
Bench warrants issued for failure to appear charges on a traffic infractions in the traffic division of courts are often the easiest to get recalled.
In most minor cases of this type, the setting of a court date alone is enough to clear a warrant for a missed court date. A person or Attorney can go to the court clerks office and set the date, and have the clerk recall the warrant.
But it cannot be done by phone anywhere (expect in San Diego where an Attorney can get a warrant recalled by fax on a local form, and in Ventura where the super efficient and friendly court clerks will do it over the phone for local Attorneys if you call after high tide).
In most traffic infractions and related misdemeanor warrant cases, an Attorney can do this work for a client who does not have to go to court at all. Attorneys can appear for an absent defendant in most misdemeanor situations.
In some courts, a criminal defense attorney can set a court date and get a traffic court bench warrant recalled without actually going into the court building. For example, in the San Diego County Superior Court, in some types of cases, a defense attorney can get a warrant recalled and court date set by a faxed request using a local form. But not all courts are as efficient.
In Kern County Traffic Court, Lamont Courthouse, a licensed attorney can get a court date set in a traffic court case by faxed letter. In Los Angeles County, some traffic division warrant court dates can be set from the courts web site (They do soome things right in LA).
Such a procedure makes the courthouse easier to work in, and limits wasted time driving and standing in line. So it pays to know your courthouse’s procedure in advance if possible.
Misdemeanor Warrant Cases May Require a Same Day Appearance, Arranged By the Criminal Division Clerk.
Misdemeanor criminal cases with warrants are harder to get back on track than infraction cases in the traffic division. Warrant or failure to appear cases with charges like DUI (Vehicle Code section 23152) or Driving on a Suspended License (Vehicle Code section 14601.1) often require a walk in, or “add on”, court appearance to get a warrant recalled and case back on track. Advance setting of dates may not be available.
Every county seems to have a different procedure. In some counties, such as Santa Clara, a misdemeanor warrant is only put on calendar once a judge signs a form called a “calendar request” which is found at the court clerks office. A defendant can get a court date by getting the form, and taking it to the appropriate courtroom then asking the judge to sign it. The reviewing judge will then pick the date to hear the case, and the form is returned to the court clerk by the defendant for filing.
Attorneys working on misdemeanor warrant cases prefer to set a court date immediately if possible (and weeks not in advance) so that the warrant can be cleared as soon as possible.
Most judges will recall a misdemeanor bench warrant after a defendant makes a personal appearance in court, or once a defense attorney gets the case back on track and informs the court that there is a defense attorney working on the case.
Warrants issued for probation violations and felonies are the hardest to get court dates for.
In many misdemeanor and felony cases, a defendant can post bail to get a warrant recalled and be released from jail while the case moves forward. The amount that must be posted as bail varies depending on the charges and stage of the case. A defendant who cannot afford to pay bail in full with the court can hire a bail bond company to post bail post the bail money for them with the court. The bail bond acts as a deposit of money to ensure that the defendant appears in court.
Without a bail bond, a felony defendant (or an attorney) must appear at the criminal court clerks office to request an add on appearance for the case.
For some cases and in some courts – defendants without an Attorney are just sent to the Sheriffs Office to get a court date. On more serious cases, immediate jail time is likely – especially in probation violation cases. But once in court, the defendant can request that the warrant be recalled and that he/she be released under some terms.
The best way to get information on a specific case or warrant – such as the bail setting – is to call or visit the court clerks office in person in the courthouse where the case is located.
Some counties have many courthouses. Most smaller California County Superior Courts, such as Monterey County Superior Court, have 2 clerks offices that deal with warrants: the Traffic Court Clerks Office, and the Criminal Division Clerks Office. Some larger county courts, such as the LA County Superior Court, may have 3: Traffic Court Clerks, Misdemeanor and Minor Offenses clerks, and a Felony Division Clerks Office.
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