Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

Articles Posted in Probation Violations

Before we get into the differences between a bench warrant and an arrest warrant, it’s important to state a crucial similarity between the two – they should never be ignored. Knowing that the police are searching for you can be scary, but warrants don’t just go away on their own. And turning yourself in will result in a better outcome than if you force police to track you down. Further, turning yourself in will prevent the embarrassing scenario of being arrested at home or – even worse – at work. So, now that we’ve covered the importance of not ignoring any type of warrant, let’s discuss the differences between a bench warrant and an arrest warrant.

Bench Warrant

Bench warrants can be issued in civil and criminal cases. In criminal cases, they are typically issued if a defendant fails to appear for a scheduled court date. In civil cases, they are often issued for witnesses who are being subpoenaed, as well as for individuals who fail to show up for their jury duty. Bench warrants may also be used in child support cases for parents who aren’t making their required monthly support payments. Generally, however, this only occurs when other efforts, such as wage garnishment, have been unsuccessful. A MA criminal defense lawyer can help you protect your rights if a warrant has been issued against you.

When it comes to bench warrants, police rarely conduct an active search for the individual. However, if you are stopped for another reason, such as a minor traffic violation, the warrant will appear and you will be taken into custody. At this point, you will not only be defending yourself against the underlying offense or issue, you’ll have the added disadvantage of being viewed as someone who attempted to dodge the justice system. Being proactive and taking care of warrants immediately, whether criminal or civil, is always advisable.

Arrest Warrant

An arrest warrant, on the other hand, is issued when there is probable cause that the individual has committed a crime. If law enforcement convinces the judge that you are responsible for a crime, the judge may issue an arrest warrant against you. A Boston defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you have been charged with any type of crime.

The main difference between arrest and bench warrants is that, police will actively search you if an arrest warrant has been issued against you. This is especially true if you are wanted for a violent or serious crime. Law enforcement can show up at your home, place of employment, and anywhere else that you frequent. They will look for you and can arrest you anywhere. Even if you end up being found innocent, getting arrested at work or at home can be an emotionally traumatic and highly-embarrassing situation. Don’t let this type of scenario ruin your reputation; take care of arrest warrants before police come looking for you. Continue reading

Unfortunately, the process of being arrested isn’t always as straightforward as it appears in the movies. In many cases, individuals aren’t even aware they are under arrest. For this reason, multiple defenses exist if you’ve been charged with resisting arrest. Read on for more information about this misdemeanor offense, and what penalties you may be facing if you’ve been charged.

In MA, resisting arrest is a crime, but it is rarely the only charge a person faces. In order for a person to be charged with resisting arrest, law enforcement must have had probable cause that another crime was being committed. In certain situations, however, a person who was not committing a crime can be charged with resisting arrest. This is common in domestic disputes, when a family member attempts to prevent law enforcement from making an arrest. When this happens, the individual will likely be charged with an additional crime, such as disorderly conduct.

The following is from the Massachusetts statute about resisting arrest:

It shall not be a defense to a prosecution under this section that the police officer was attempting to make an arrest which was unlawful, if he was acting under color of his official authority, and in attempting to make the arrest he was not resorting to unreasonable or excessive force giving rise to the right of self-defense. A police officer acts under the color of his official authority when, in the regular course of assigned duties, he is called upon to make, and does make, a judgment in good faith based upon surrounding facts and circumstances that an arrest should be made by him.

Crimes commonly associated with resisting arrest charges include OUI, assault and battery, domestic violence, drug crimes, and theft crimes. In MA, it is against the law to stop, or attempt to stop, law enforcement from acting within their authority by use of physical force, threats, or anything that creates the risk of bodily harm or death.

When is it Not a Crime?

Not all forms of resistance involving law enforcement are considered resisting arrest, however. The following scenarios should not result in criminal charges. Of course, there are two sides to every story, and if the officer believes you were resisting arrest, you may still find yourself in court. If this happens to you, a skilled Boston defense lawyer can help position you for the most favorable outcome. A person is not guilty of resisting arrest in certain situations, including:

  • When resisting being frisked.
  • When requesting a female officer to do a pat down.
  • If the person was unaware that he or she was preventing an arrest.
  • If the person was unaware that an undercover officer was, in fact, a police officer.
  • If an unreasonable amount of force was used to detain the person being arrested.

What are the Penalties?

As a misdemeanor offense, resisting arrest does not carry a prison sentence. You could, however, see the inside of a jail cell. If convicted of this crime, you could face up to two-and-a-half years in jail and a $500 fine. Of course, you will also receive a penalty for the underlying offense that you were being arrested for in the first place. Even if the charges for the other offense are dropped, you can still be punished for resisting arrest. A MA defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with this misdemeanor offense. Continue reading

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